A Lib Dem council hands over the keys to the district’s first council houses in 30 years

The keys to the first new Council Houses from the Liberal Democrat team at Teignbridge in South Devon have been handed over to the delighted tenants.

Built on the site of ‘pre-fab’ block garages, the two houses show what ‘modern council houses’ can be and are the first ‘council houses’ for nearly 30 years in the district.

Highly energy efficient, with heat source air pumps and good-sized rooms, the two new houses in Newton Abbot are the first of an ambitious programme to build over 100 council houses.

Soon to be finished are five flats, also on council-owned land in Newton Abbot.

Building council houses again was a key commitment from the Lib Dem team which won back control of Teignbridge Council in 2019, under the leadership then of Cllr Gordon Hook.

Like many councils, Teignbridge sold its housing stock in 2004/5 and has relied on affordable housing delivered by housing associations and the planning system. Our current Local Plan seeks 20% to 30% affordable housing, depending on the location in the district.

In truth though, the nation needs a ‘New Housing Deal’ with council’s actively encouraged to borrow and build genuinely affordable homes to rent and to run. The benefits run like ripples – families have homes, we tackle the skills shortage by creating opportunities for apprenticeships, we take the steam out of the heated private rental sector, and we defeat the scourge of homelessness.

In Devon, we are experiencing a rapid drying up of private rental properties.

In North Devon, the Reach Plc news organisation, reported on 8 August that there are 2,000 residents looking for social housing on the Devon HomeChoice register but only 20 residential properties available for rent via Rightmove.

In Teignbridge, there are 1,000 applicants on the Devon HomeChoice, a search of Rightmove on 9 August showed 5 rental properties available in Newton Abbot, 7 in Dawlish, 1 in Teignmouth, 1 in Ide, 1 in Bovey Tracey, 2 in Chudleigh and 1 each in Ashburton and Buckfastleigh with none in Exminster. In East Devon, there were 22 rental properties displayed on Righmove.

Anecdotal evidence from other districts suggests this pattern of high demand and very low supply is repeated across Devon.

Research by property agents Colliers published this month says local authorities are losing out on millions of pounds of council tax income because the Government’s business rates system is still giving many holiday home and second home owners the opportunity to avoid paying the tax, provided they make their properties available to rent. This situation has been made even worse by the pandemic.
It’s said the ‘holiday home tax dodge’ is costing the councils of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset £35.5 million a year in lost Council Tax.

Ending that tax loophole alone would be a start in helping to fund more ‘modern council houses. In Teignbridge, we’ve made a start.

* Councillor Alan Connett is the leader of Teignbridge District Council.

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  • Helen Dudden 10th Aug '21 - 5:24pm

    My granddaughter was living in a rundown Housing Association flat. I agree, some of the older stock is too expensive to heat. She was paying over £100 per week to try and heat the cold, damp flat.
    I’ve felt concerned since the furlough started, many losing homes and ending up in debt.
    Who is responsible? I notice more and more food banks in different shops.
    As I said, ecotricity was my granddaughters supplier, how green is it trying to heat an unheatable home?
    I’m trying to find a suitable home for my Power Wheelchair and I, is moving out of the area the answer at 73 years old.
    We have some serious housing problems, I know the Duchy wanted to build at Newton St. Loe, I would love to become part of a Steering Group. Not purely building on green belt, because we need farming and other industry.

  • John Marriott 10th Aug '21 - 6:41pm

    Now that’s the kind of initiative that gets you noticed. Council housing should never have been allowed to become a stigmatised last resort. Mind you, two isn’t going to go far; but it’s a start.

  • Who else knows about this? A great story.
    Shouldn’t our leader have been there with maximum publicity?
    Another missed opportunity.

  • Robert Hale 11th Aug '21 - 8:01am

    Are the council able to shield these properties from Right to Buy legislation?

  • John Marriott 11th Aug '21 - 9:23am

    @Robert Hale
    I sincerely hope so.

  • Robert Hale 11th Aug ’21 – 8:01am…Are the council able to shield these properties from Right to Buy legislation?….

    I hope so, too; otherwise building council homes is pointless…These homes seem very desirable and, in Devon, there a quick profits to be made…i

  • Helen Dudden 11th Aug '21 - 11:30am

    Agreeing with you, right to buy is not a appropriate now. These properties tend to end up in the private sector at a later stage.
    Johnson’s idea’s on what is right and proper is not the same as many.
    I would shop at John Lewis, I have for many year’s. If John Lewis put money into house building, great idea.

  • Peter Davies 11th Aug '21 - 2:34pm

    The answer is no. It will take a government with some guts to abolish RTB before the tenants have been in place long enough.

  • Nigel Hunter 11th Aug '21 - 4:44pm

    Right to by ANY council houses as of now should be BANNED

  • RTB should certainly be abolished.

    I would also like to see every councils running a “private sector leasing scheme” and the council being given the first right to acquire all Ex local authority properties that are now being used as buy to let properties.

    The rent tends to be slightly lower than what you get on the private market, however, the rent is guaranteed as the council is the tenant and the property is returned to the landlord in the same condition as at the start of the lease, so it has many advantages for the landlord still

    Right To Buy was never intended to turn into the cash cow of private landlords, unfortunately that is exactly what happened.

    If we are going to get solve the social housing crisis then we need to get more creative and we need to expect landlords who owns these ex-local authority properties to play a part

  • Jason Conner 11th Aug '21 - 6:22pm

    I am wondering how many you on this thread live in council housing? I am a council tenant and actually ‘do’ so can comment from experience. There are a few misnomers. Not everyone who buys their council flat or house does so to make a profit but because they want to settle down routes and make it/own their own home. What’s the point of banning council tenants from buying their own homes if they want to, many cannot afford to do so in any case. It’s not a route I would choose but I know people who have and they are not stress not just doing so to make a profit.

    The other issue is about older council housing. Some of it is in very good condition and I live in an older block where the heating works well, hot and cold water and no damp, mould or condensation. We don’t all want it modernised and sanitised. I do feel sorry for the tenants who experience sub standard living conditions and more must be done and money spent to sort out these properties. There are other issues of asbestos materials used in the construction in much of the council housing where I live. This is something which the local authority will need to deal with due to the health risks to residents and asbestosis when asbestos is removed. Whereas many people flag up the cladding after Grenfell the issue of asbestos also needs some serious attention.

  • matt 11th Aug ’21 – 5:26pm…………Right To Buy was never intended to turn into the cash cow of private landlords, unfortunately that is exactly what happened………..

    Really? I have several friends who bought, in the name of their elderly parent(s), the house where they grew up..Their stated intention was to use the house, on the death of their parent(s), as a let or to sell it on..In Bournemouth many council owned properties were in private areas and worth far, far more than the discounted price available to long term tenants..

    Jason Conner 11th Aug ’21 – 6:22pm..Jason, How many siblings do you know who have taken the ‘route’ in my previous paragraph? That is the reason that so many ex-council homes have became ‘cash cows’.

  • Alan Connett 12th Aug '21 - 4:04pm

    I’m not a fan of ‘Right to Buy’ but if it is to continue then it must be supported by a ‘Right to Replace’. Problem is that the money to replace is unlikely to be covered by the Right to Buy proceeds and then there is the issue of acquiring the land to build new!
    I do think, as a first step, we could have a national ‘pause’ on Right to Buy. As part of the national investment in infrastructure, what better than a real programme to build ‘modern council houses’.
    As the article identified, let’s close off the tax dodge loopholes and increase the charges for long-term empty properties.

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