Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL) is set to let 14 new homes at social rent levels as construction of the latest phase of Barton Park – known as Steeples – gathers pace.
Developer Redrow is expected to hand over the new homes to Oxford City Council’s housing company on 8 December. They consist of two-four bed houses and a single block of six three-bed flats in Barton Fields Road and six three-bed houses in Stevenson Crescent.
Social rent is calculated with reference to the size and value of a home and average regional incomes, plus any service charges for communal facilities. In Oxford, this is typically around 40% of equivalent private rents.
Although OCHL will own the new homes management will be handled by the council’s tenancy management team, which will let them to applicants on the housing register.
Enhanced building fabric and air tightness standards, together with the use of solar panels, mean that the new homes have been designed to be very energy efficient.
When completed Barton Park will have 885 tenure-blind new homes and 354 of these (40%) will be let at social rent by OCHL – including 83 of the 207 homes at Steeples.
The first phase of Barton Park – known as Mosaics – is now complete, with 237 new homes built by Hill. All 95 OCHL homes on Mosaics have now been let to people on the council housing register. The new community enjoys the use of a sports pavilion, sports pitch and linear park, and Barton Park Primary School opened in 2020 for families on the development and in neighbouring Barton.
This summer, Countryside Housebuilding West was appointed to deliver the final phase of construction. This will involve building retail space and 441 new homes, of which 176 will be OCHL homes. Countryside expects to submit a reserved matters application by the end of the year.
Barton Park is being delivered by Barton Oxford LLP, a joint venture between the council and developer Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.
“All OCHL homes at Barton Park will be let at genuinely affordable social rent and this will a make a vital contribution to improving opportunities for people and tackling systemic inequality in our city. The council will let OCHL’s new homes to people on our waiting list and I look forward to seeing tenants moving in soon.”
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery
“OCHL are very pleased to be taking possession of the first Redrow-built homes to add to our portfolio. Working with Hill and Redrow at Barton Park, we have been able to offer the residents of Oxford a variety of architectural styles while still providing the best quality and improving the standard in terms of carbon reduction.”
Helen Horne, managing director of OCHL
“We are delighted to be handing over 14 properties to Oxford City Housing Ltd to be let through social rent.
“We’re pleased to be supporting the local council in ensuring everyone living in the area has access to affordable rent, and hope that the addition of these houses will make a much-needed contribution towards bridging the gap of inequality within the city.
“Here at Redrow, we strive to build more than just houses. The establishment of thriving communities is at the heart of what we do, which is why we have also facilitated the creation of a community sports pavilion, primary school and sports pitches for all local residents to enjoy. We are looking forward to welcoming the new tenants to Barton Park very soon.”
Sarah Boyce, sales director for Redrow Thames Valley
Oxford needs homes
High demand and scarce availability mean that Oxford is among the least affordable places for housing in the UK. People on average outcomes are priced out of the housing market and private rents are nearly double the average for England as a whole.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2020 Oxford’s median house price was £400,000 – 11.72 times median gross household earnings (£34,124) in the city. For England as a whole, the median house price is 7.84 times median earnings.
Half (49.3%) of Oxford’s homes are in the private rented sector, where the ONS reports a median private rent of £1,450 a month for a three-bedroom home. The equivalent amount for England as a whole is £800.
Meanwhile, there are currently more than 2,600 households on the council’s housing waiting list.
The cost of housing pushes people into hardship, overcrowded conditions or out of Oxford altogether. Half of Oxford’s workers have to commute into a city they can’t afford to live in – leading to growing unaffordability, increased congestion and carbon emissions across Oxfordshire, as well as difficulties for employers in recruiting and retaining staff.
The cost of housing means that a third of Oxford’s children live below the poverty line and is a key factor behind poor educational outcomes.
OCHL ten year plan
OCHL aims to build around 2,000 new homes for rent and sale over the coming decade. Together with the 354 homes it will own at Barton Park, this will yield a new generation of more than 1,100 genuinely affordable new council homes.
This programme represents the first significant development of council housing in Oxford since the 1970s.
Another 300 homes are expected to be shared ownership and other affordable tenures. Shared ownership gives people the opportunity to get a foot on the property ladder by buying a stake in their homes that they would not otherwise be able to afford.
The remaining homes will be for market sale and the money raised by selling them will subsidise the building of council and other affordable housing.
OCHL is also in the process of establishing a procurement framework for offsite manufacture, including modular housing, that will play a vital role in ensuring new housing meets the council’s 2030 zero carbon target. This framework will also provide the resources and expertise to unlock difficult sites that traditional developers would be unable to do while meeting the council’s requirements for affordable homes.