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Labour plans 1,000 new council homes for Cambridge within £658m programme




Financing for 1,000 new council homes to be built in Cambridge by 2032 has been included as part of a £658million development proposal.

The city council has drawn up a financial blueprint for the project, through which council housing would be provided as part of a wider package, featuring 1,200 rented homes, 233 shared ownership homes and 500 homes for market sale.

Cllr Lewis Hebert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lewis Hebert. Picture: Keith Heppell

The council has indicated construction would start on the homes between 2022 and 2032.

It follows a pledge made last year by the Labour Party in Cambridge to provide 1,000 new council homes in the period.

An indicative financial blueprint for the programme suggests the entire programme will cost £658million.

No locations have yet been proposed for the homes, but the leader of the Labour-run council, Cllr Lewis Herbert, said in October last year that the North East Cambridge development “gives us a big opportunity”.

Consultation on the site, which could hold 8,000 homes, is ongoing.

Labour’s plan is based on the assumption the city council can secure a £90million grant funding from Homes England for part of the building cost. The council would also use its ‘right to buy’ receipts and borrow £335million.

But homes available for sale on the open market are likely to be needed to make the plan financially viable.

Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development
Graphics from the consultation on the North East Cambridge development

The Labour administration said the programme will help meet the need for affordable housing in the city, with 1,700 people currently on its housing register.

The Liberal Democrat opposition group said it supports plans to build more homes to assist those on the housing register, but said the homes need to be carbon neutral.

The council said there “is an aspiration to move towards zero-carbon during the life of the programme, where it is feasible to do so, and where funding is available to do this”.

As part of the 2016 devolution deal, Cambridge City Council, with the help of the Combined Authority, committed to building 500 new council homes over five years, with £70million provided by central government for the programme.

The city council says it is set to meet its current target and deliver a net increase of 546 council rented homes in that period.

Last October, the council said it plans to continue on the trajectory set by the government-backed five-year programme and continue building 500 homes every five years up to 2032.

The council’s financial assessments suggest it will work with a development partner on the plans.

It is already working with developer Hill as the Cambridge Investment Partnership for the delivery of its current council housing programme, which also includes some properties available for purchase on the open market.

Unveiling new council housing in Wulfston Way, Cambridge, are, from left, Cllr Colin McGerty, ward councillor for Queen Edith’s Ward, Chris Luxford, contracts manager for Hill, Cllr Richard Johnson, executive councillor for housing for Cambridge City Council and CIP board member, Claire Flowers, heading of housing development at Cambridge City Council, and Cllr Jennifer Paige-Croft, ward councillor for Queen Edith’s ward. Picture: Philip Mynott
Unveiling new council housing in Wulfston Way, Cambridge, are, from left, Cllr Colin McGerty, ward councillor for Queen Edith’s Ward, Chris Luxford, contracts manager for Hill, Cllr Richard Johnson, executive councillor for housing for Cambridge City Council and CIP board member, Claire Flowers, heading of housing development at Cambridge City Council, and Cllr Jennifer Paige-Croft, ward councillor for Queen Edith’s ward. Picture: Philip Mynott

The business plan will be discussed at the council’s housing committee on Thursday (September 24), where the executive councillor is recommended to approve pushing ahead with the project’s development.

The council stressed that the plan is at an early stage of development.

Cllr Richard Johnson, executive councillor for housing, said: “In our 2019 manifesto, Cambridge Labour promised that, upon the conclusion of the current council house building programme in 2022, part funded by the devolution grant, we would embark upon a new target of an additional 1,000 new low carbon council homes.

“We stand by that pledge. Housing need is high here in Cambridge, with the council’s latest figures showing over 1,700 on its housing needs register.

“These homes will help meet this need. They will also be sustainable. Our aim is for as many homes as possible to be built to Passivhaus (ultra-low carbon) standards, transitioning, if viable, to net zero-carbon by the end of the programme.”

He said the council will continue to focus on one and two-bedroom homes, where the demand is highest, but there will be a mix of different sizes and housing types, too.

Cllr Richard Johnson. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Richard Johnson. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The council also reiterates its commitment to providing new homes for tenants with a disability, aspiring where possible to go above the current national target of five per cent of properties on new developments being adapted for wheelchair use,” he added.

“I’m really excited for the future of council housing in Cambridge.Our city council really is leading the way, and I look forward to seeing these plans become reality.”

Cllr Anthony Martinelli, the LLiberal Democrat housing spokesperson on the city council, said: “We have long supported plans to build new homes in Cambridge, but are absolutely clear that the new developments need to be carbon neutral – we cannot compromise on the climate catastrophe.

“With over a 1,000 people on our city’s housing needs register and rough sleeping on the rise year-on-year we will continue to push the council to play its role in tackling the housing crisis.”

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