Housing association appointed to develop new council homes

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Epping Forest District Council has appointed East Thames Group, a housing association, as development agent to deliver its new council housebuilding programme.

This is thought to be the first agreement of its type, where a council has appointed a housing association to deliver a whole development programme. East Thames will develop around 120 new affordable rented homes on behalf of the council over a 6 year period. The £1.6 million appointment follows a competitive tender process, with most of the new homes being developed on difficult-to-let garage sites in the council’s ownership.

East Thames will provide all the required development, project management and professional building services for the programme. The housing association will undertake initial development and financial appraisals, preparation of planning applications, all resident consultation and liaison and the procurement and supervision of works contractors.

“This is the right approach for us”, said Councillor David Stallan, the council’s housing portfolio holder. “The council has not built any new homes for over 25 years, so we do not have the technical expertise in-house to undertake new housebuilding ourselves. We are very pleased to announce this strategic partnership with East Thames, who we have already worked successfully with over a number years through our enabling role”. “Not only did East Thames submit the most competitive price”, Councillor Stallan continued, “their tender submission was also assessed as providing the best quality. We will continue to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in our district, with all of our housing association partners. But personally, I am looking forward to the day when we are able to build more council homes each year than we sell through the Right to Buy”.

Initially 13 organisations, comprising both housing associations and private companies, expressed interest in tendering for the role, with six shortlisted to submit detailed tenders.

East Thames will also be responsible for formulating the council’s development strategy and seeking investment partner status with the Homes and Communities Agency for the council. If successful, this would enable the Council to bid for grant funding for the new homes.

The appointment is expected to commence in January 2013, with the development of the first sites starting on site commencing in early 2014. The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a committee to oversee the housing building programme.

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