By Ian Dipple Thursday 17 October 2013 Updated: 18/10 15:04
BUILDING new council homes has been ruled out as an immediate answer to the borough's affordable housing crisis.
Instead councillors have approved a series of measures they say will increase the supply of social housing quicker and deliver better value for money for taxpayers.
They include buying back ex-council homes, selling or giving land away to housing associations, working with private landlords, introducing home ownership grants to allow council tenants to buy a private property so their home can be re-let and a shared equity scheme.
To meet Redditch's demand for affordable housing more than 200 properties a year would need to be provided, but over the last six years just 340 have been created.
Before losing control of the council in 2012 the Conservatives had proposed building council homes.
But a report by council officers showed if the authority was to begin building on land it had already agreed to sell it would cost £132,895 per property while they had recently bought homes at an average cost of £104,000. The scheme itself would only deliver less than 40 properties.
As a result of the government's decision to end the housing subsidy scheme the council recently borrowed almost £99million on its Housing Revenue Account as its share of the national housing debt which will be paid off over 30 years. In return the council now keeps all rent money.
Councillors were told it meant they were unable to borrow more money to finance building and the £9.4million they had in reserve was needed to maintain and upgrade its existing properties as well as help pay back the debt.
But Conservative leader Coun Juliet Brunner argued using a combination of rent money, government cash for building new homes and the reserve funding, building was still possible.
"To give away our land to registered social landlords for nothing is short-sighted and not in the best interests of Redditch residents. It is ironic a Labour led council will not build social housing but a Conservative led one would."
But officers said it was not 'prudent' to spend all the HRA reserve money with Derek Allen, housing strategy manager, adding: "Now would not be the time to take this forward when there are other options that are less risky we can pursue."
Council leader Bill Hartnett stressed they had not ruled out building council homes in the future.
"In another time, another place council house building may be the preferred way but the officers independently brought this report and at this stage that's not what they are recommending," he said.
"There are other options that will bring social/affordable housing quicker, more economically and deliver best value."
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