City Council to set up housing company to deliver affordable homes

Published: Friday, 18th March 2016

Oxford City Council will set up a housing company to deliver new affordable homes with a range of tenures to help address the city’s acute housing need.

The company, which will be wholly owned by the council, will also:

  • purchase and manage the affordable rented homes at Barton Park, where up to 885 homes will be built,
  • develop new build housing on the Council’s land and buy affordable housing from developers on private land, and
  • undertake estate regeneration schemes  

The decision follows the government’s proposed changes to national housing and planning policies that will make it more difficult for the City Council to continue to build new affordable homes. These government changes include:  

  • Placing a statutory duty on local authorities to promote the delivery of starter homes and include them within the definition of affordable housing, which will reduce the provision of other types of much needed affordable housing in Oxford,
  • A forced four-year Council house rent reduction which reduces planned income, and
  • The sale of high value council properties when they become void in order to fund the extension of the right-to-buy scheme to housing association tenants.

In addition to its primary objectives, the housing company could offer its services, such as property management and repairs, to the private sector and help generate revenue for the council. It could also play a direct role in providing homes for the key workers that Oxford needs, for example through sub-market rent or shared equity tenures.

By acquiring sites and building houses, the company could influence the pace and type of house building in the city. The Council could also compulsorily purchase land allocated for housing from landowners reluctant to develop and sell it to the company to bring forward development more quickly.

This development activity will provide direct employment and jobs through the supply chain as well as the opportunity to grow local skills, especially through apprenticeships.

Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “The lack of housing supply, quality and choice is constraining economic growth in Oxford and is a significant barrier to our ambition to be a world class city for everyone. The housing company will be a separate legal entity wholly owned by the Council, with power to undertake anything a company can do and in particular to acquire and hold land and properties. Because our objective is not to rake in profit or pay shareholders - as is the case with private developers, we will be able to provide a better deal to meet the affordable housing needs of the people of Oxford.”