Wrexham Council are looking to kick start a programme of building their own social housing on their own land, with the first of the new programme taking place on the old Nant Silyn care home site.
The Executive Board in October 2015 approved the ‘decommissioning’ of the services provided from Nant Silyn care home. The premises subsequently became vacant and were declared surplus to the Council’s Adult Social Care service requirements.
In these cases land can be sold off and the capital receipts retained by the council, however in this case the land is being kept and developed.
In 2015, the council approved a “Build & Buy” programme to increase the size of its social housing stock but the lack of suitable council-owned land has slowed down the roll-out of this approach.
Now it is hoped that the land can be used to build 12 units of specialist and adapted housing for older people and people with additional needs to meet specific demand identified from the local housing waiting lists.
Council Leader Mark Pritchard said: “In the past we would have sold it. It would have been easy to sell it and put the money into the pot, but we have decided to start a programme building new council houses in Wrexham. There is a demand for social housing, should I say, quality 21st century social housing.”
Although he would not be drawn on future projects or targets he did say he hoped the development was “the first of many.”
The report before councillors also notes: “There have been reports of anti-social behaviour at the site and it is costing the Adult Social Care department £6,000 pa to keep the empty buildings and site secure.
“If we can sell the assets and put the money back into the plot, we will. We have decided to do it ourselves. We will demolish the building, and then work with a partner. It is a brave decision to retain the land, rather than sell it as we needed the money.
“Going into the future of the next five years of this administration I hope there will be lots more, as many as we can build.”
Cllr Pritchard spoke glowingly of the late Carl Sargeant and his ‘passion’ to build 20,000 social housing homes: “He was right to propose that. We are working alongside the Welsh Government to build the new social housing in Wrexham. Social housing has a price tag, if Welsh Government give us more money we will build a lot more.
“We are taking our own initiative as its our own land to build houses on it. Before it has been a case of government working with Regional Social Landlords giving them money direct, but why not us? There has been a break through here and it has been realised the councils have a part to play to build new council stock.”
If Executive Board members approve the internal transfer of the former Nant Silyn site from the council’s General Fund to the Housing Revenue Account, it is proposed that the local authority accesses the Housing Finance Grant funding to deliver a new-build development of council-owned, social housing.
The report notes an independent valuation of the Nant Silyn site has been carried out by the District Valuation Office, determining the value at £65k with the building in situ.