Council struggles to meet housing target amid rising construction costs

Council claims it remains committed to building 1,000 affordable homes despite currently only having cash for 330, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

New homes under construction
New homes under construction

Barnet Council remains “committed” to building 1,000 new affordable homes despite being hit by soaring construction costs.

The council currently has capacity to build 330 homes but now needs to find around £170million to deliver the remaining units, a report reveals.

Building costs are set to climb by 16% between 2022 and 2027, according to the report, thanks to factors such as “Brexit, high demand for materials with limited supply, Covid-19, increasing energy costs, labour cost inflation and the current developer/contractor market”.

Despite this, the report states that the council remains “fully committed to delivering 1,000 homes at 50% of market rent”, which was one of the key pledges set out in the Labour group’s election manifesto.

So far, 197 London Affordable Rent homes have started on site or gained planning approval in Barnet borough, with at least another 225 due to come forward as part of the council’s build-to-rent programme.

The town hall is considering alternative ways of providing the remaining homes, including securing additional grants to change rent levels from Barnet Affordable Rent to London Affordable Rent. It is also looking to deliver homes through partnerships or joint ventures with contractors, developers and registered social housing providers.

The report was presented to the council’s housing and growth committee on Tuesday. Under questioning from Conservative councillor Richard Cornelius, committee chair Ross Houston said the provision of 1,000 homes “remains the priority” and blamed the Tory government’s “mishandling of the fiscal event” last September for making the situation “a lot more challenging”.

Tory group leader Dan Thomas claimed the previous Conservative administration in Barnet “did a lot more than 1,000 homes either directly or indirectly”, delivering on a 40% affordable homes target on estate regeneration schemes. He added: “Regardless of circumstances, I’m sure you will make it work”.

Cllr Houston said the council would work to provide affordable homes on a range of schemes, including by being “very robust with developers” over affordable homes targets. He added that he was sure “many” regeneration schemes completed during the Conservative administration had fallen “far short of 40%”.

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