Real cost of districts new social housing is revealed

Issue 578

TAXPAYERS face a bill of almost £220,000 per property for new social housing units in Kirklees, it has been revealed.

Forty homes are now ready for letting on Lobley Street, Heckmondwike, to those on Kirklees Council's priority housing register.

Contractor Regenter Excellent Homes for Life has built them on a 20-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal with the local authority.

The consortium, which includes construction firm Wates Living Space, are building 466 homes at 27 sites across Kirklees.

The handing over of the Heckmondwike project last week brings the total number of new homes finished to 166.

The Press understands that the total cost of the scheme is £102.5m. Kirklees received a government grant worth £92.5m, leaving officials with £10m to find from council funds.

It means taxpayers will fork out an average of £219,957 for each of the 466 homes under the PFI deal.

The homes are needed due to an acute shortage of social housing, with about 15,000 people on the waiting list.

But it comes at a time when council services such as public toilets and glass collections are being axed due to lack of funds.

Kirklees had their hands tied as the government ruled new social housing should be built using a reformed PFI scheme.

Under this arrangement, the government gives grants to support the cost of major projects, like new council homes.

The Press has previously reported on how PFI is affecting health services at the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

They face paying back about £1bn for hospitals in Wakefield and Pontefract that only had an up-front cost of £311m.

The deal was agreed when public sector organisations had to pay the entire PFI cost out of their existing budgets.

A council spokesman said: “Kirklees has invested £10m and was allocated £92.5m in PFI funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.

"These new homes will significantly address the shortfall of affordable housing we’ve had in Kirklees for many years.

"PFI is a well established way of enabling councils to work with the private sector to develop and improve their stock of affordable housing.

"Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to build these new homes. And after 20 years the council will own them.

"It is intended that rental income from the properties will cover the relevant costs of managing the properties.”

Elsewhere, social housing provider the Home Group aims to build 42 houses and eight flats in Healey, Batley.

They are planned for land off Burnsall Road, Arncliffe Road, Hayburn Road and Malham Drive, with all for rent to those on the housing register.

The site has been vacant since old prefabricated homes were demolished several years ago.

Amber Malone, manager of the £6.1m project, said: "This area of land has been identified by the council for regeneration for some time.

“We hope people living nearby will be glad to see the land is going to be put to use providing homes to meet local demand."

A consultation event is being held on Wednesday April 17 from 3pm and 7pm at the public lounge of Charles Jones Court, off Hayburn Road.

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