Ashford Borough Council shortlisted for top housing awardPublished: 12/05/2021
Ashford Borough Council has been shortlisted in the “Best Development Team (South)” in the Inside Housing Development Awards 2021.
The council is one of six shortlisted for the prestigious annual award, with the winner announced on 4 November at London’s InterContinental Hotel. The organisers said that the judging process this year proved to be one of the toughest as 2021 saw a record year for entries, with over 300 entrants.
Ashford’s dedicated development team spans both the housing team and the corporate project delivery team and is achieving an impressive programme of affordable housing across the borough.
Its new-build homes and acquisitions (including conversions for temporary accommodation) are seeing Ashford deliver strong numbers. The acquisitions include an off-plan purchase (the New Quarter development in Ashford town centre) that represents the single biggest handover of homes to the council in its history.
A clear strategy and delivery plan underpins this work, detailing when the council will intervene in the local market. Skills in the team include an architect, building surveyors, quantity surveyors, project managers, and professionals with lettings, area management and communications experience that help not only deliver homes for the council but also work closely with the registered providers who serve the borough.
Despite the challenges relating to the council’s wider response around the pandemic, the team has delivered excellent housing numbers since May 2019. Through its own new-build programme, a variety of off-plan and open market acquisitions and through close enabling work with registered providers, the council has completions on 321 homes since May 2019.
There are over 400 homes in the pipeline of its own builds and acquisitions. Our schemes have Homes England grant funding recognising our status as a trusted delivery partner.
Explaining why Ashford deserves to win the award, Cllr Bill Barrett, portfolio holder for housing, said: “At Ashford we do things differently. We began building again in 2011 when the Localism Act gave us the power to do so and we continue to raise the bar. We are now onto the sixth phase of our affordable homes programme and have on site two independent living schemes (delivering 60 homes for people aged over 60 with a housing need) and a general needs apartment block.
“We have a multiplicity of sites in our pipeline at various stages of the planning process or community consultation. We have built, bought, bought back or enabled 321 homes since May 2019. There are over 400 homes in the pipeline (on site, awaiting planning approval and in community consultation) of our own builds and acquisitions awaiting handover alone.
“We build purely affordable rent homes and we make the best use of our resources. Our schemes have Homes England grant funding recognising our status as a trusted delivery partner. Halstow Way (17 general needs flats) has achieved a grant of £60,000 per unit to mean we can deliver social rent on those homes – genuinely affordable housing. We retain the flexibility to use funding to its best capability so that we are maximising resources within our Housing Revenue Account.
“Our team focuses on not only accelerating delivery but making the best use of our stock. By encouraging mutual exchanges, delivering 20 such exchanges specifically that have been driven by housing need in the last 12 months.
“And we are not stopping there. For sites that might be too ambitious for us to deliver out ourselves but that might be viable in partnership, we are currently out for tender on a housing delivery framework, which will enable us to work more closely with RPs, developers, providers of modern methods of construction and financially backed housing solution providers. The contract is worth £36m over four years aiming to deliver 200 homes,” added Cllr Barrett.