IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall could launch its own company in bid to build council homes

Islington Council chiefs are considering ways to get around government borrowing cap; waiting list for social housing in the borough stands at around 14,000

03 August, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Council leader Richard Watts: ‘We need to build more houses quicker’

THE Town Hall is considering setting up a company that could build new council homes in Islington by getting around a government borrowing cap, the Tribune can reveal.

It is one of the options on the table to help fulfil Islington Labour’s manifesto pledge of building hundreds of new council homes.

Sources say that, although conversations are in the early stages, if given the go-ahead the company would be wholly owned by the council.

Questions still remain over where the houses would be built, however.

The company could help the council sidestep a borrowing cap on the housing revenue account by using money from sources such as the Public Works Loan Board.

If given the green light in coming months, Islington Council could join 17 other boroughs in London which have set up wholly-owned development companies.

As reported in the Tribune in March, the Town Hall has been piling pressure on the government to lift the cap, which they say is preventing it from building homes.

The Labour council has ruled out a Haringey Development Vehicle-style set-up, which caused controversy when neighbouring Haringey Council proposed a joint venture with private developer Lendlease.

This was then dumped by Haringey while agreeing last month to set up a wholly-owned housing company.

Currently, Islington Council’s new developments are built with about 60 per cent social housing, the rest being sold privately to subsidise the new builds. It is thought this percentage could increase under a council homes company.

The waiting list for council housing in Islington stands at about 14,000, some living in overcrowded, cramped conditions.

Labour’s manifesto said that between now and 2022 it would build at least 550 council homes as part of 1,900 “genuinely affordable” homes.

Meanwhile, the council is looking to appoint a new service director with responsibility for building council homes.

Town Hall leader Councillor Richard Watts told the Tribune: “Given that we were elected on a priority of building new council homes, we need to be able to find all of the resources of the council to push forward on the biggest council house-building programme in a generation.

“That means we need senior clout within the council to build on the great work the team in this area have already done. But if we are going to make it even bigger and better, we feel we need a very senior director in the council committed to driving our new-build programme through.

“The aim is as always to end up building more council houses quicker.”

The senior role could come with a salary in the region of £100,000 – a third-tier job below chief executive and corporate director.

The job advert is due to be published in early autumn.

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