Oxford City Council’s housing company has submitted plans to redevelop the former Lucy Faithfull House site in Oxford city centre to create 36 new flats – including new social housing.
The flagship scheme in Speedwell Street will be the first in the city centre to be delivered by the newly-created Oxford City Housing Limited.
New social housing
The scheme will create a single block – stepping up from four to six storeys – featuring 18 one-bedroom flats, 17 two-bedroom flats and one three-bedroom flat.
Half of the new homes will be affordable, with 15 one- and two-bedroom flats being new social housing let by the City Council, and three two-bedroom flats being let at ‘affordable’ rents (80% of market rents).
The remaining homes will be private market housing for sale to cross-subsidise the new social housing and deliver a sustainable mixed-tenure development.
The homes will be ‘tenure blind’, meaning the social and private housing will look identical.
The development will be car free, with the exception of two parking spaces for the occupants of two ground-floor social housing flats tailored for disabled people.
Each flat will have two bike parking spaces.
Solar panels will be provided on the roof of the building, with the aim of generating between 20% and 40% of the development’s energy use on-site.
Each home will feature private gardens or balconies, alongside front and rear communal courtyards.
The site partially covers the site of Blackfriars Church, which was completed around 1286 and at the time was likely to have been the largest Dominican Church in England, and the architects have used this to influence the development.
The development will use light and dark building materials throughout because the emblem of the Blackfriars was a black and white shield, and friars would traditionally wear black cloaks and white habits.
If planning permission is granted, work could start on site in summer 2020 and be completed in early 2022.
Oxford’s housing crisis
Oxford is regularly listed as being the least affordable place to buy a house in the country. In February, Lloyds Bank found that average house price in Oxford are £460,184 – 12 times the average annual earnings in the city.
There are currently about 3,000 families on the waiting list to receive social housing in Oxford. In November 2017, 60% of the households on the register were under the age of 44, and half had dependent children.
The City Council set up Oxford City Housing Limited as one of its responses to the city’s acute housing crisis. The main aims of the housing company are to increase the supply of new housing and social housing, and to provide a financial return to the City Council to help protect front-line services.
Oxfordshire County Council previously funded 61 beds for homeless people in Lucy Faithfull House, but in 2016 the service was given to two other service providers, which provided 62 beds for homeless people.
Oxford City Council has recently agreed plans that will mean improved assessment, and a range of new accommodation and services, aimed at getting people off the streets and into sustainable housing more quickly. This includes providing winterlong emergency shelter available to anyone sleeping rough – whether or not they have a local connection or recourse to public funds.
The centrepiece of the City Council’s transformation plan is the conversion of 1 Floyds Row into a new assessment centre and shelter. When fully operational next spring, Floyds Row will include a range of accommodation, a treatment room and intensive support to help people move on from a life on the streets.
“This will be a flagship build for Oxford City Housing Limited, creating 36 new flats – including new social housing – to a high build and environmental standard in a prime site in Oxford city centre.”
Richard Connolly, Managing Director of Oxford City Housing Limited