Consultation to commence shortly
Basildon Council has begun work on its next 5-year Housing Strategy
Cllr Andrew Schrader, Cabinet Member for Housing & Estate Renewal
Basildon Council's current Housing Strategy is now up for revision and we have started work on developing our new 5-year strategy, which I presented to Cabinet on Thursday ahead of the upcoming public consultation. This is a key document for the Council, providing the framework that will draw together the many sources of funding and relevant policy strands into a single, cohesive strategy to tackle our local housing-related challenges.
As Cabinet Member for Housing & Estate renewal, I am immensely proud of what the Council has achieved in Basildon Borough over the course of the last plan. We delivered over 300 affordable new homes through the Housing Revenue Account and our wholly-owned house-building company Sempra Homes. This is a record I am keen to build upon and continue, with ambitious programmes to deliver more quality homes for local residents.
"As Cabinet Member for Housing & Estate renewal, I am immensely proud of what the Council has achieved in Basildon Borough over the course of the last plan."
I also want to carry on investing in our existing homes, both through day-to-day repairs and maintenance but also through our annual £22 million Capital Programme, delivering new kitchens, bathrooms, new efficient boilers, and more. I feel that it is vitally important that the Council continue to do everything we can to ensure the long-term sustainability of our existing housing stock and I intend to prioritise energy efficiency measures in future capital programmes, specifically supporting those residents who are at risk of fuel poverty.
Basildon Council has awarded 400 Disabled Facilities Grants to support improved accessibility and enable residents to remain in their own homes. Following a successful bid for external funding, extensive work was also done to tackle rogue landlords and this helped identify unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (H.M.O.s) and our Private Sector Housing and Environmental Health teams dealt with more than fifty allegations of harassment and illegal evictions during the pandemic. I pay tribute to the hard work those teams do to ensure that Basildon residents are not exploited by unscrupulous people.
"I also want to carry on investing in our existing homes, both through day-to-day repairs and maintenance but also through our annual £22 million Capital Programme, delivering new kitchens, bathrooms, new efficient boilers, and more."
There was also a successful funding bid for services relating to domestic abuse and those at risk of rough sleeping, both of which have supported the delivery of critical services for vulnerable residents. The South Essex Domestic Abuse Hub – which is now based at the Council offices - has supported over 1,200 clients into safe, alternative accommodation, or supported them to remain safely in their own homes. Again, this critical work ensures we keep our residents safe. Meanwhile, the Property Solutions Scheme and the Rent Start Scheme have enabled hundreds of local people to rent privately by encouraging landlords to rent out their properties.
We all know there are going to be serious challenges in the years ahead. I and my colleagues are all too aware of the funding pressures faced by local government – along with literally everybody else. We have cost of living pressures brought on by the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine but we also have reforms to the planning system, increased regulation of the housing sector, particularly new building regulations and requirements around energy efficiency, all of which are much-needed but bring with them many practical challenges, not to mention costs. And, of course, the fundamental challenge of meeting housing demand whilst balancing the views of residents on new developments.
"I am very much walking into this process with my eyes wide open and also keeping my ears firmly open as well."
So, I am very much walking into this process with my eyes wide open and also keeping my ears firmly open as well. I hope that residents and other stakeholders will take the opportunity that this consultation will afford to give us your views. The priorities we have set out will support the delivery of our emerging Housing Strategy and our Corporate Plan. These priorities have been identified in collaboration with the Tenant and Leaseholder Panel and the Community Diversity Council. They are, in a nutshell:
- To improve access to housing opportunities and choice
- To make best use of council homes
- To support residents to create neighbourhoods they wish to live in and be part of
The online public consultation will be open from January 30th until February 26th and we will also be hosting a stakeholder consultation event on January 31st, where we will be consulting with neighbouring authorities, social housing providers, colleagues in health and the voluntary sector, among others.
I should stress, the Council is under no statutory duty to publish or consult on a housing strategy but having one allows us to use a planned approach to housing delivery and to deliver our Administration’s ambitions for the Borough and I think it is important we consult with you, the people who live, work and play here, and engage our partner organisations. Ultimately, we will need your support to deliver our strategy! I am pleased that the Cabinet approved the consultation and the priorities I have set out and I look forward to hearing residents' views. You can read more about the 2023-2028 Housing Strategy here.