Plans to bolster housing stock within Caerphilly County Borough over the next five years have been agreed by the council’s cabinet.
Building new council houses, a remodelling of older people’s accommodation and more housing maintenance programmes will be the aims of the Labour-led authority over the coming years.
Cabinet members met to approve the plans on Wednesday, with council leader Dave Poole expressing his delight that the council was committing to manifesto targets two years early.
“When we sought re-election in 2017 we thought we’d be talking about this in 2020,” said Cllr Poole.
“We’ve got to start somewhere and I’m glad we’re starting in 2018.”
Feasibility studies will now investigate building up to 46 new-build homes at sites in Risca, Blackwood, and Caerphilly – projects which could cost £4.9 million.
Funding would be split between the council and the Welsh Government through the Affordable Housing Grant scheme, which was recently opened to local authorities having only been available for housing associations.
Concerns had been raised about the number of homes proposed, but Cllr Poole said: “Not only is there going to be 46 families with new homes, they will be coming off our waiting list and that’s important.”
Around 4,300 people are currently waiting for general needs accommodation, with almost a third of those on the housing register being single adults.
To meet demand, the council is considering other options to increase its housing supply, including the redevelopment of existing apartment blocks and buying land from the open market.
They will also explore the potential of bringing up to 1,500 empty private properties back into use, a figure criticised by the opposition party Plaid Cymru last month.
But Plaid Cymru councillor Lindsay Whittle recently hailed the new-build programme as a “cracking start” and a “golden opportunity”.
Demand could also be satisfied through proposals for all one-bed council houses currently designated for older people to be reclassified as general needs properties.
The move forms part of borough-wide revamp of older persons accommodation, with studies launched into the remodelling of six sheltered housing schemes.
A report says proposed works at Ty Melin, Ynyswen, Castle Court, St Mary’s Court and Waunfawr House could cost £8.9 million.
Councillor Lisa Phipps, cabinet member for homes and places, said: “This is ambitious and it’s going to involve a huge investment in our older person’s accommodation to meet the needs of our residents now and in the future.”
The council will also embark on a new programme of improvements to the interiors of exteriors of their properties once the existing Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) programme ends in 2020.
Since 2012, the council have worked to bring all properties up to standards and earlier this year, a report revealed that their targets were being exceeded.
A new programme of external and internal works on council-owned properties will begin in 2020/21 and 2025/26 respectively.
Councillor Carl Cuss said he was encouraged by the strategies having expressed concerns about the existing WHQS programme.
“I’ve picked up quite a lot of issues regarding external works. We seem to be doing short-term fixes rather than long-term fixes,” he said.
“There are situations where certain tenants have not had their windows inspected for over 10 years, and we should have done it every five years.
“It’s about wiping the slate clean looking at the long term and making sure those improvements are put in now, and that we’re regularly inspecting them.”
The council’s interim chief executive, Christina Harrhy, said the three projects show a “clear strategic intent for housing over the next 10 to 15 years.”
Blackwood independent councillor Nigel Dix questioned why the council’s plans did not go further.
He said: “I have to ask why only 46 new houses? When the council has land at Pontllanfraith as well as former school sites at Bedwellty and Oakdale.
“If the council really want to reduce the waiting list why not use these sites to build council houses. I fear this announcement is window dressing. To make a real and meaningful difference I ask that council priorities council land for council housing.”
Report by the Local Democracy Reports Scheme.