In her letter, Heidi Foster has asked how the town’s new council house will be administered. The house, in South Undercliff, will be let by Rye Town Council to a local family for up to five years to help them as a first step to getting onto the housing ladder. The rent charged will be slightly less than market rent and a small proportion of the rent will be set aside to create a housing grant fund that hopefully – provided the rules allow – will be used to help local families pay the deposit on buying their own houses.
As soon as some minor repair works are completed, the first tenants will be selected according to a list of priorities and with the help of a local agent and they will need to have reasonably long-established connections with the town in order to be considered.
The house was purchased with the help of a loan of £210,000 from the Public Works Loan Board and the balance was made up from the Council’s own general reserves. The cost of repairing and maintaining the property will be partly met from the surplus the Council makes from letting their other residential property – the Town Hall Cottage, which is let at market rent.
The Council is able to take this bold step as it has the “General Power of Competence” introduced as part of the Localism Act in 2011. This power can be claimed by any parish council that meets the criteria. The council must have a qualified Clerk trained to administer and oversee the actions of the Council carried out under this power. The other requirement is that at least two-thirds of the councillors must be elected and not co-opted – as is the case with many Parish Councils. Rye Town Council has a highly trained Clerk – Richard Farhall – and all but one of the councillors have been elected.
Affordable housing is provided in many cases by one of the large social landlords such as the Hastoe Housing Association or English Rural Housing Association, but now Rye Town Council is doing its bit to address the shocking lack of affordable homes for local families.
Photo: John Minter