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Town hall chief ‘determined’ to use new powers to increase council homes in the borough

PUBLISHED: 12:27 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:16 24 October 2018

Barking & Dagenham council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell outside the new Weavers Quarter in Barking. Pic: KEN MEARS

Barking & Dagenham council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell outside the new Weavers Quarter in Barking. Pic: KEN MEARS

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Council leader Darren Rodwell has welcomed new powers allowing local authorities to borrow more to build their own homes.

Cllr Rodwell, who is also the executive member for housing at local government association, London Councils, said: “Boroughs will be determined to make the most of these new powers.”

The government announced plans to remove borrowing restrictions allowing councils to build up to an estimated 10,000 homes a year nationwide.

Councils had argued that the cap was the greatest barrier to building new homes.

The government believes removing the limit will be a shot in the arm for the housing market with councils better able to build on sites that developers consider too small.

Cllr Rodwell said: “After years of calling for boroughs to be empowered to build more council homes, we’re pleased to see the government taking firm steps in this direction.”

But he added that the government should put its money where its mouth is and provide enough funding for council home building at a “significant scale”.

And he called for more certainty over social rent levels and an end to limits on where money gained from the sale of council homes goes, insisting the proceeds should be directed towards house-building.

The council had already announced ambitious plans to build 60,000 new homes in Barking and Dagenham over the next 20 years under its wholly owned housing company.

The borough has lost 48,500 council units under the right to buy sell off introduced in the 1980s with the majority going to buy to let landlords.

There are more than 7,000 households on the Barking and Dagenham’s housing waiting list, but only around 600 homes become vacant each year, according to the council.

London mayor Sadiq Khan also announced last week that councils could bid for up to a £750,000 share of a £10million funding pot to beef up their housing and planning teams.

A government spokeswoman said the borrowing cap would be lifted as soon as possible with more details expected in the Budget on October 29.

She added: “After councils showed a strong appetite for building new homes when we increased borrowing by £500 million in London in June, we are now lifting the restrictions altogether so they can deliver a new generation of council houses.

“On top of this, we are spending £4.8billion in the capital to build at least 116,000 affordable properties. These measures form part of our overall mission to build more, better and faster.”

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