The city council has outlined plans to set up a Housing Revenue Account which will allow it to build its own homes, with the aim of 2,000 properties being readied by April 2032.
The authority transferred its housing stock to Cross Keys Homes in 2004, a decision which was made to allow for urgent repairs to be made.
The local authority has previously stated its ambition to begin building new council homes, but the details have been outlined in a report to be debated by the Conservative Cabinet on Monday, June 21.
The report states that the council will build at least 1,200 properties over a 10 year period (ending on March 21, 2032), with the “ambition” to deliver 2,000 by that date.
Setting up an HRA will cost £556,000 which will be funded from reserves.
It is expected the new homes will be used largely for the city’s homeless families, with the number of households needing support expected to grow.
The report says: “The council faces increased financial and social pressures from the number of households presenting as homeless and the high levels of demand from households on the Housing Register.
“Despite all efforts from our housing association partners to increase the delivery of affordable homes, and the council’s efforts to maximise the availability of private sector options, supply has failed to meet housing need and is expected to continue to fall below the levels needed to meet housing need in future.
“There are concerns that homelessness, both at a local and national level, is likely to rise as restrictions are lifted and the economic impact of the pandemic continues to be felt.
“We have already seen a slight increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation since the stay at home order was lifted and family and friends are no longer willing to allow people to stay with them.
“Extrapolated over the next 12 months, this could result in around 60 more households in temporary accommodation.”
The council added that up to 300 households who could have been evicted if not for a temporary ban during the pandemic are at risk of becoming homeless when the ban is lifted, while the end of the furlough scheme in September could be another tipping point.
It warned that “the number of people presenting to the council as homeless could increase significantly, with the number of households in temporary accommodation also increasing”.
Other uses for the new council homes could include supporting foster families, children moving out of care into long term tenancies, and supporting people with social care needs to live independently, the report adds.
Financially, building council homes would provide a major boost to the local authority’s coffers, with a surplus of nearly £66 million over 30 years expected if the 1,200 homes are built in the first decade, rising to £134 million if 2,000 homes are built.
The money could then be re-invested in building new homes or improving the existing stock, the report states.
The decision to transfer the council’s housing stock over to Cross Keys was agreed in 2003, with the handover taking place in 2004.
Former council leader John Holdich, who pushed through the transfer, revealed in a recent interview that at the time the local authority was paying £14 a week to the Government for each council tenant, meaning it was unable to afford the desperately needed repairs on approximately 40 per cent of the homes which were deemed not fit for purpose.
Mr Holdich, when council leader, announced the decision to deliver new homes back in 2019, stating at the time that the Government’s decision to lift the cap on council borrowing to spend on housing meant the time was right to invest once again in its own stock.
Cross Keys and the council have also set up a joint housing venture called Medesham Homes to deliver more social homes in the city.
Medesham may be used to help deliver the new council homes.