Council house centenary marks start of new era

On the week that marks the centenary of the nation's biggest council house building boom, South Kesteven District Council has confirmed plans to build hundreds of new homes.

South Kesteven has a long and proud history as a social landlord. It once owned more than 9,500 council homes across the district and is unusual among authorities in still owning nearly 6,000 houses, including 2,399 in Grantham.

The vast majority were built following the 1919 'Addison Act', which gave subsidies to local authorities, aimed at building half a million homes 'fit for heroes' after World War I.

Although the programme was halted after two years, a second building boom after World War II created a legacy that is still visible today in towns and villages across the country.

The District Council and previous local authorities built their first houses in Grantham during the 1920s on The Drive, The Avenue, The Grove and Old Earlesfield.

Some of the District Council's houses are considerably older. Lumby's Terrace on Water Street in Stamford, for example, was built in 1826.

Between 1970s and early 1990s, council housebuilding fell rapidly from 120,000 homes per year to none. In 1980 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - South Kesteven's most famous daughter - announced tenants' 'Right to buy' their homes at a significant discount to their market value.

The policy was extremely popular and by 1986 a million tenants had bought their own homes; reducing councils' stock of houses in the process. 

Over the following decades, the demand for new houses has continued to outstrip supply, driving up house prices as well as the cost of renting in the private sector. 

A recent report by the Local Government Association revealed that the average house price in South Kesteven now stands at 7.9 times average earnings, which it says suggests that 'high house prices might be an issue'.

For the first time in a generation, SKDC began building new council houses in 2013 as it began the process of replacing houses 'lost' under the 'Right to Buy' policy and gradually increasing its stock.

CH - Lumby's Terrace, Stamford

Council housing at Lumby's Terrace, Stamford.

Today, more than 2,000 people are currently on waiting lists for council houses in South Kesteven. However, there is good news on the horizon.

Thanks to the lifting of central government borrowing restrictions in April, SKDC is aiming to build 500 new council houses across the district over the next seven years, focusing on individual homes and small developments, rather than the large council estates that were built previously. 

Some of the new council-owned properties will use the latest modular construction techniques in which panels are built in factories before being transported and assembled on site. As well as being energy-efficient, they can be easily adapted as tenants' needs change. Planning permission has been granted for 14 modular homes in Grantham so far.

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Barry Dobson, said: "With house buying out of reach for many and private rental becoming so expensive, social and affordable housing options have become increasingly important to a growing proportion of South Kesteven's residents.

"We are proud to have kept our stock of council houses when so many councils transferred theirs. Now we have an opportunity to build more council houses than has been possible for decades. But it is not just about building new homes. It is aboutcreating communities where people can live, raise families and grow older; somewhere they feel comfortable and secure.

"We are very proud of the relationship with our tenants and are always looking for more tenants to get involved in shaping the work that we do, whether this is attending a meeting or putting forward ideas online."

"2019 has been a milestone year when we can look back with pride on the last 100 years and look ahead to providing more houses fit for the 21st century."

Trent Road, Grantham

Council housing at Trent Road, Grantham

District council plans thousands of affordable homes 

In addition to the hundreds of council houses that South Kesteven District Council now plans to build, it recently announced plans to invest up to £100 million building or buying thousands of 'affordable' homes across the district.

Nearly 14,000 homes are destined for South Kesteven by 2036, around a third of which will be classed as 'affordable' and available to rent or buy at a discount to the private market rate.

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Matthew Lee, said: "A hundred years on from the birth of the council house, we are determined to ensure that the homes in our district meet the needs of our residents now and for future generations.

"We have exciting plans to work in partnership with the private sector to stimulate the building of more homes and ensuring that our district continues to offer homes that are both aspirational and accessible. 

"Growing South Kesteven's local economy is our number one priority, but we don't want people to have to live elsewhere and commute into the district - we want them to be able to afford to live and raise families here. That's good news for local employers, for the environment and for people's lifestyles.  

"While some of our tenants have lived in council houses for many years, for a growing proportion of our tenants a council house or affordable home is a vital stepping stone to getting on the housing ladder. 

"Although we won't be able to solve the lack of supply overnight, we are taking positive steps to improve the availability of social and affordable homes for the next generation of council tenants."

Our council house is an ideal home

Family home for 60 years