Bradford reinvents the council house for new era
The first council houses for 30 years have been built by forward-thinking Bradford, which has more planned for the city, Bingley and Ilkley. Sharon Dale reports.
THE homes for heroes that Britain clamoured for after the war became the very opposite of des res.
The term council house was soon to be associated with substandard construction and sink estates and in 1980, the Thatcher government effectively prevented local authorities from building them altogether, while giving tenants the right to buy existing stock.
Recent legislation paved the way for councils to start building again and one of the first to take up the challenge was Bradford.
The motivation to invest in bricks and mortar came after the credit crunch killed off a raft of proposed private developments. A severe shortage of housing was predicted.
Although housing associations took up where councils left off in the 1980s there was still a lack of affordable homes to rent. A steady stream of properties from developers, who were forced to provide a proportion of social housing in larger schemes, dried up as builders failed to find funding for sites that still lie fallow.
David Shepherd, assistant director of regeneration and culture at Bradford City Council, says: “There was already a nationwide shortage of affordable housing and we could see that situation getting worse thanks to the credit crunch and the fact that Bradford has a growing population. Bank funding just wasn’t available for private developers or housing associations. We knew this happening because the number of planning applications dipped and sites that had planning weren’t being built on. That’s why we decided to step in to the breach.”
Statistics back this decision up. In 2008, there were 2,100 homes built in the Bradford area and last year there were just 600.
The council also hoped to boost investor confidence in the city by proving that there was a big rental demand for new homes. So they identified land they owned in Bowling and with a grant from the Homes and Communities Agency and a “mortgage” from the public sector loans board they laid the foundations of a bright new era for council housing.
Work has just finished on the 45 eco-friendly townhouses at Pavilion Gardens, designed by Shipley-based architects Halliday Clark, and they couldn’t be more different from old-style council homes.
They are timber framed with traditional stone-clad exteriors but they boast the latest energysaving and generating features, including super insulation, photo voltaic roof tiles, triple glazing, rainwater harvesting, a biomass boiler and air source heat pumps. Twelve have reached a rare Code 6 sustainable housing rating, while the rest are Code 4.
Inside, they are contemporary and designed to be adaptable, lifetime homes, with plumbing and space to convert the downstairs cloakroom into a shower room for those with mobility problems. One bedroom is wired to be used as an office for home workers.
Longevity was one of the key ingredients in the construction and fit out.
“Quality was critical. We also created large rooms, storage areas and we invested in really good work surfaces and kitchen cupboards,” says David.
The houses are all for rent on secure tenures through social housing provider Yorkshire Housing, which is managing the properties. Demand is high and the success has spurred the council on to more ambitious plans.
Construction has just started on another 90 properties in the Bowling area of Bradford and the council has just won HCA funding for three more developments.
These include 40 houses in the Gilstead area of Bingley and 100 homes split between the old middle school site in Ilkley and Moor Court in Ben Rhydding. Work is due to begin later next year.
The funding model for the new developments will be different as money will be raised from selling some of the properties on the open market.
Between a third and half of the houses will be for sale. This will not only generate working capital, it will ensure that the social make up of the site is balanced.
“It stacks up financially though we aren’t looking to make a profit. The income we get from the properties is enough to service the debt and that should be cleared completely in 30 years,” says David.
How long the council continues to build depends largely on the economy. Once developers and housing associations begin to develop more sites, there may no longer be a need for council housing. For now though, everyone appears to be a winner.
“We’re seeing more developers and investors showing an interest in Bradford.
“The first site has created confidence because we’ve shown it is financially viable to build sustainable homes for rent,” says David.
“We’ve also created employment for local people and businesses.”
MEETING DEMAND: New style eco council housing designed by Halliday Clark for Bradford Council to meet the demand for homes.