West Norfolk Council draws up plans to buy new homes

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More than £750,000 could be spent on buying up newly built affordable homes before the cash is lost for ever, under plans drawn up by West Norfolk Council officials.

The programme would see the council set up a housing company, eight years after its previous stock of properties was transferred to Freebridge Community Housing.

Under the proposal, due to be debated next week, a total of £761,840 will be taken from money given to the council by developers of other construction projects to help finance services and infrastructure, such as public transport sites, to fund the project.

The money would be used to buy affordable homes on newly-developed lands, such as the NORA site in South Lynn.

And money raised from any future planning agreements would go towards financing similar arrangments on other sites which have yet to be developed.

Alistair Beales, cabinet member for regeneration, said the money had to be used within a set time limit.

He said he accepted the number of homes secured by the programme would be relatively low, but added: “We’ve got the opportunity to deliver some affordable housing and we should get on with that.”

If approved, the properties purchased would either be rented by the council before being sold on, or subcontracted to a suitable provider for them to manage.

And Mr Beales said Freebridge were an “obvious” choice for the latter role.

Meanwhile, a separate report has claimed that West Norfolk has the third highest proportion of empty homes in its area in England and Wales.

According to the figures from the Office for National Statistics, around 11,000 households in the borough are empty – almost 15 per cent.

The only areas with higher rates are the Isles of Scilly and the City of London.

But Mr Beales said he was “astonished” by the figures and said increases in council tax charged on empty buildings was already having an impact on the numbers now being occupied or for sale.

He said using the money to fund compulsory purchase orders would only resolve the problems affecting a very small number of properties.