Sheffield City Council is set to approve its Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan for 2020/2021, which includes proposals to invest £500 million over the next five years into building new homes and improving existing council housing.
The HRA Business Plan highlights the council’s aim to address the number of new affordable homes available and to provide more choice for those trying to move in to council housing, as well as improving thousands of existing council properties, continuing tower block safety works and making changes to surrounding areas and the environment of council properties and estates.
Last year the council committed to providing 1,600 new council homes by 2023/24 and this year this is being extended by an additional 1,500, taking the total to 3,100 new council homes over the next 10 years.
The additional council homes will include a wider range of housing types including new Older Persons Independent Living with Care, new homes for younger people and families as well as accommodation for people with specific needs including learning disabilities and other supported housing.
However, the main priority and biggest investment will be in the city’s existing council housing stock, to carry out maintenance and improvements that will make sure homes remain safe, modern and warm. This will include updating kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors, roofs and improving communal areas.
The council also plans to continue improving services for tenants and leaseholders, particularly the most vulnerable tenants such as elderly or disabled people, those who need support to live independently and those who are managing complex health or mental health issues. Part of this plan is to improve the local environments and surrounding areas, ensuring that neighbourhoods are safe and well managed.
Other key investment priorities for 2020/21 include the ongoing fire safety works, including sprinklers and fire stopping works on tower blocks, and continuing to invest in roofing replacement and electrical upgrades.
Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety at Sheffield City Council, said: “We have ambitious plans to provide housing that gives people options, meets the demand and varying needs of our residents, and creates thriving communities.
“The truth is there isn’t sufficient affordable housing in the city, we don’t have enough options available within our council housing stock and we need to maintain the quality of tenants’ existing homes.
“We are tackling all of these issues head on, investing millions of pounds to make sure people in Sheffield have suitable, well maintained homes that they can afford and be proud of.
“As well as all of these benefits to our housing offer, this level of investment over the next few years will also create hundreds of employment and apprenticeship opportunities for local people, providing essential jobs and up-skilling our future tradespeople.”
This investment in new homes and improvements to existing homes and services is funded through tenant rents and borrowing.
For the last four years rents have been reduced by 1% per year in line with Government rent policy. As a result Sheffield lost 13% of its projected rental income which has had a significant impact on the business plan.
The Government is now allowing Council’s to increase rents which will mean an average increase of 2.7% or £1.98 per week for Sheffield tenants if approved by Councillors.
There will be no increase in service charges for tenants in sheltered or furnished accommodation and no increase in charges for community heating.
Councillor Wood added: “We understand that some tenants may have concerns about this small increase, which is on average £1.98 per week, but after four years of rent reductions, the average rent for a council property in Sheffield is still lower than it was in 2016, and we will of course continue to work with tenants who are struggling to pay their rent.
“This increase is vital if we are to maintain tenant services, improve the standards of our properties and develop more social housing to address the needs of local people.”
The HRA Business Plan sets out the income and expenditure plans for delivering council housing services in Sheffield. It explains the key council housing priorities for the coming years, showing how the council intends to develop tenant services.
Each year the HRA Business Plan is reviewed and updated to set budgets and charges for the year ahead. The 2020/2021 plan will be discussed at the council’s Cabinet meeting next week, the report is available on our website.