The UK’s first project which promises to regenerate brownfield sites, address housing shortfalls and put first time buyers on the property ladder will receive £16.5 million funding from the council leading the scheme.
By March 2015, Cherwell District Council’s Build! programme will transform dozens of redundant locations across the area into 250 new affordable rent, shared ownership and equity loan homes for its residents.
In addition to utilising brownfield sites to provide housing, the programme also involves an element of self-build and certified training for residents, enabling them to finish the properties themselves in exchange for a cheaper rental or sale price to make the homes even more affordable.
It is the first time that such a range of different housing initiatives have been combined on this scale in the country.
Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “We know across the UK other local authorities will be tackling these issues individually. What makes Build! innovative and unique is its capacity to address all of these issues within one programme to create a lasting legacy for Cherwell. We are targeting the issues that are of most importance to our residents including regenerating our town centres, creating homes for local people and helping struggling first time buyers to get that important first step on the property ladder.
“One of the programme’s greatest strengths is that it delivers homes for a cross-section of our local communities ranging from the employed to the unemployed and single people to families. What’s more, Build! has acted as a catalyst for further investment and firmly places Cherwell ‘on the map’ as a district that is innovative and forward thinking.”
Initially the council had anticipated delivering the project alongside partner agencies which would help to meet £9.5 million of the overall capital costs. However, having reviewed its position, Cherwell has recently opted to deliver the entire project itself to retain control over the investment process and construction costs. The scheme has been supported with investment of more than £3m from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which will enable affordable homes to be built by March next year as part of this project.
Stephanie Ainsworth, HCA area manager, said: “This is a great example of a scheme that is helping to provide homes and opportunities for local people and we are happy to support it.
“Through this work the council is leading, residents will benefit from high quality new homes, with many getting onto the housing ladder for the first time, while others will learn valuable construction skills and gain employment as a result. The impact that this project will have on the local area will be significant and I look forward to seeing the affordable homes completed.”
The 250 homes will be delivered across 26 sites primarily based in Banbury and Bicester but with the inclusion of some rural locations. Among the more advanced projects is the renovation an extension of St Leonard’s House in Banbury where local contractors Art Contracts Limited, who are based in the town, have been appointed to carry out the work which in turn will benefit the local economy. Council officers have deliberately identified brownfield sites across the area – some of which have stood vacant for up to 20 years – to regenerate tired spaces while preserving green spaces.
At the majority of these locations residents will be required to undertake some of the renovation works themselves which will vary from installing kitchens and bathrooms, to painting and decorating. To assist them, the council has teamed up with ACE Training Limited which is providing free professional training for residents at its workshop in Kidlington and presenting them with a CSCS card upon completion. Furthermore, residents who are unemployed are invited to undertake this training full time to obtain an NVQ Level One or Level Two in courses such as site carpentry or brickwork.
Cllr Wood said: “When your scratch beneath the surface of the Build! programme we are doing more than just providing residents with somewhere to live. We are turning derelict sites into desirable properties. We are helping the economy. We are providing invaluable skills, qualifications and experience through our partnership training programme which will help increase participants employability. And by discounting the sale and rent of these properties we are giving people a very real chance at finally achieving their goal of renting or buying the home they have always wanted but never been quite able to afford.
“In doing all of this, we are improving the lives of our residents in Cherwell while ensuring the council receives a safe return on its money which can then be reinvested to deliver more projects like this in the future and keep Cherwell at the forefront of pioneering projects such as this.”