Making property progress

The Hinkley Point C Accommodation Fund is making investments to create new affordable homes in Bridgwater.

New homes at Monmouth Street

Construction is well underway on the 28 affordable homes, which are being built at the site of the former Slocombe’s factory at Monmouth Street in Bridgwater. The development is a collaboration between Sedgemoor District Council, SHAL Housing Association, Summerfield Homes and EDF.

David Baxter, Strategic Housing Manager at Sedgemoor District Council, discusses the council’s plans to increase bed spaces for local families and young people.

Why is it important to make more housing available?

“Housing is a big issue nationally. Demand has risen, while the supply of new buildings hasn’t kept up. There have been other nationwide issues too, like an increase in homelessness and changes to the benefits system. More locally, the arrival of Hinkley Point C has brought jobs and spending to the local economy, but it has also placed more demand on housing. The £7.5 million Hinkley Point C Accommodation Fund is helping us to increase the pool of affordable homes for local people and families.”

In what ways is the fund being used to help meet demand?

“We’re taking a number of different measures. We’re building additional new homes on brownfield sites, where it would usually be tricky to get investment from developers. Alongside this, we’re using the fund to help set up schemes to support tenants and landlords, for instance with renting out rooms and properties, via a lodging scheme and Somerset Home Let. We also have an ‘Empty Rooms’ scheme, which is making existing housing habitable again.”

Have the schemes been successful?

“We’re very pleased to have created more than 1,000 bed spaces so far. With our Empty Homes scheme, we’ve been able to increase the stock of quality housing in the area by making improvements to existing buildings. For me, the most meaningful sign of success is seeing families so happy to get the keys to their new homes.”

Filling empty homes

More than 300 homes in Sedgemoor were sitting empty at the end of last year according to the council, which is working hard with various partners to bring the properties back into use.

Empty properties can be neglected or derelict while overgrown and messy gardens can be a nuisance and attract vermin. There are many reasons they may become empty, but the cost of repairs can be a problem.

Through the council’s Empty Homes scheme, Home First Plus can arrange for contractors to renovate properties to a good standard and offer a management and tenant service. The council can also offer funding to support home repairs. The property is leased from the owners for at least seven years, the council rents it to someone on their waiting list and it’s then returned to the owner in good decorative order at the end of the scheme. 

There are many benefits to bringing properties back to use, like this two-bedroom terraced house in Bridgwater. It was in a poor state of repair when it was inherited by a couple who approached the council for advice. David explained:  “We did it up and it has now gone to a family from the housing waiting list. There’s high demand for housing in the town. Reusing a property so it’s not abandoned and getting vandalised improves the street scene, it involves less carbon than building from scratch and the family it’s gone to are delighted their long wait for a home of their own is finally over.”