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Celebrating one hundred years of council homes in Colchester!

In February, CBH and Colchester Borough Council celebrated the centenary of the borough’s first council homes. Some of the earliest council homes in Colchester were built more than 100 years ago in Defoe Crescent. Today, the council provides around 6000 affordable homes to tenants which are managed by CBH.

In 1919, The Housing Act required councils to provide housing “for the working classes”. Central funding from the government was available for the first time to support large-scale council-home projects. Following this, Colchester saw a number of council homes being built across the borough throughout the decades. Other initiatives, such as the 1942 Beveridge Report, encouraged a nationwide project of constructing four-million new homes over the next decade which lead to a peak of new homes in the 1950’s.

In the early 2000’s, the Government launched their Decent Homes programme, which set a target to ensure all social homes met a standard of decency by 2010. To access the funding to achieve this, some councils created arms-length management organisations (ALMOs) and in 2003, the council created their ALMO, Colchester Borough Homes.

Today, CBH provides homes to around 6000 tenants and 1000 leaseholders. Along with ensuring residents have access to affordable and quality homes, CBH also provides essential services including tackling antisocial behaviour, supporting those who are homeless or rough sleeping and the chance for tenants to engage and have their say in CBH’s services.

As an ALMO, CBH has a board of directors which includes tenants, councillors, and independent members.

Looking at why it’s important to mark the centenary, Paula Goddard, tenant and Board Member, said “I’m proud to have been a tenant since July 2014. There are many stories across the Borough of residents who require secure and affordable housing and it’s because of the Council and CBH that this has been achievable.

“Not only does my family have a secure home and tenancy, but we have access to valuable services such as financial advice and support from organisations who work in partnership with CBH. Tenants and leaseholders also get to take part in the annual Your Garden and Good Neighbour awards, as well as Resident Voice panel meetings to share their views on CBH. The services provided and opportunities available are so valuable and really highlight the benefits Council housing brings to the borough and its communities.”

Dirk Paterson, Chair of the CBH board, echoed Paula’s comments “It is great to celebrate all we have achieved with Council housing across Colchester and I’m very proud of the value for money and high-quality housing we offer to communities. 

“It’s vital that we continue to build more homes to support residents. The history of good quality housing shows that it vastly improves the life chances of people, helping individuals fulfil their educational goals, their personal aspirations and enabling them to contribute to society.  

“We must build on this legacy in Colchester. As we look to the future, we need to be ambitious and work towards a different picture, one which provides far greater numbers of sustainable, low carbon, high quality social housing in our communities over the next 10 years. I look forward to working with colleagues to make this a reality.”

Council Housing has come a long way in 100 years. Colchester Borough Council has an ambitious and forward-thinking approach to the future of Council homes and is committed to ensuring there are more, efficient, fit for purpose homes for its residents.

It is a key strand in the Council’s 2020- 2023 Strategic Plan to increase the number, quality and type of homes. The Council has an ambitious programme of plans, including improving existing Council homes to keep them in good repair and improving their energy efficiency and building new Council homes for residents.

The Council aims to achieve our ambitious goal through a wide range of initiatives and working in partnership with its wholly owned housing company, Colchester Amphora Homes Limited (CAHL).

It is looking at alternative ways of delivering the much-needed social housing to support the people on the housing waiting list, borrowing funding through the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). This is a ring-fenced account separate to other Council accounts and is only used for improving or increasing affordable housing.

Councillor Adam Fox, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “The landscape of Council housing has changed significantly over the past 100 years. However, what hasn’t changed is the need for more council and affordable homes for our residents. 

“We are committed to seeking to providing good quality housing and we are making substantial investments to ensure we deliver that. We will be building on the partnerships we have through Colchester Borough Homes and our housing company CAHL to support residents and the future of Colchester.” 

The Council’s housebuilding plans include:

  • Building 8 new homes on a vacant site at Military Road
  • Building 16 new homes on former garage sites at Hardings Close, Buffett Way and Scarfe Way
  • Buying back over 50 former Council properties using the “Right to Buy Back” clauses
  • Purchasing over 100 properties on the open market
  • Redeveloping the sheltered housing provision at Elfreda House (increasing numbers and improving quality)
  • Delivering over 120 affordable homes (30%) within developments totalling 400+ homes across sites at Creffield Road, Mill Road and St Runwald Street being developed by Colchester Amphora Homes Ltd
  • Bringing forward more garage sites before 2024 in a third phase of development sites

The total investment in projects buying new homes to support those on the council’s Housing Register adds up to more than £57m over six years.