Liverpool – the city which built the first council houses in Europe 150 years ago – has been given the green light to construct a new generation of local authority homes for the 21st century.
The Government has confirmed that the local authority can build properties for the first time in more than 30 years, after confirming that it will not need the council to repay the housing debt of £735 million that was written off when the city council transferred the last of its stock to housing associations in the late 2000s.
In a letter to Mayor Joe Anderson, the Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse, writes that he is “pleased to see the ambition and enthusiasm of a city such as Liverpool, in engaging with the urgent process of delivering the new homes that this country needs”.
He adds: “We removed the borrowing caps on the housing revenue account in the Autumn Budget to free up ambitious authorities to begin building again.”
The announcement marks a return to house building for the local authority, which in 1869 embarked on constructing the first council housing in Europe to tackle issues with sanitation and poor health.
St Martin’s Cottages on Ashfield Street in Vauxhall (pictured above), were tenements and survived until 1977 when they were demolished.
The first properties to form part of the council’s housing scheme will be a small number of properties that have been refurbished on Webster Road in Picton.
The council is now working up further plans for an initial phase of houses, which will contribute to the city’s need to develop 30,000 new homes by 2030.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson – who grew up in a council property at Kent Gardens near the city centre – said: “Liverpool pioneered public sector housing and my formative years were spent growing up in a council tenement, so I am extremely proud that, 150 years on from the city leading the way on social properties, we are now able to do so again.
“Buying is not for everyone, so it is important that we do what we can to help people in every situation to get the home they deserve, and we need to rebalance the city’s housing market with a wider choice of the homes that people need.
“That is why I have pledged that we will build 10,000 houses, and I want a proportion of them to be council homes for people to rent.
“Affordable, social, properties are desperately needed to make sure nobody is left behind and that is why housing is an integral part of our Inclusive Growth Plan.
“I am really excited that we will be able to build new houses for the first time in more than three decades – in my view they can’t be built fast enough.”
Shadow Secretary for Housing, John Healey MP, said: “Liverpool is at the sharp end of the housing crisis. Everyone knows someone who can’t get the home they need, or aspire to.
“I’m glad to see a city like Liverpool able to build much needed new council houses – made possible by the lifting of the HRA borrowing cap which we have long wanted to see.”
Jo Cutler, Shelter Merseyside Hub Manager, said: “Social homes are what this country wants and what it needs, and Liverpool is no different. The housing emergency has hit the city hard – right now, 240 homeless households are stuck in temporary accommodation – which is why it’s vital the council has the means to provide more safe and secure social homes in the area.
“Every day at Shelter Merseyside, we hear from families experiencing the trauma of homelessness. The impact this has on them, and their children, cannot be overstated. So, it’s good to see Liverpool City Council returning to its roots by taking advantage of its new borrowing capacity to build much-needed social housing. We call on the council to ensure these homes are appropriate and genuinely affordable for the local people who need them.
“Anyone struggling with bad housing or homelessness can contact Shelter Merseyside for free and impartial advice by calling 0344 515 1900. For more information, visit https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help/local_services/merseyside.”