COUNCIL chiefs are celebrating after a record number of affordable homes were built in the district in the past year.
Stratford District Council no longer owns or manages affordable housing of its own having sold all its housing stock back in 1996, but the authority plays a major role in the provision of additional affordable homes.
And a total of 288 new homes have been built in the 12 months to March this year – the highest figure for 20 years.
It comes amid a continuing long-term trend for high house prices during which time Stratford district has consistently been recognised as having the highest average house prices and rents in the West Midlands.
The council has worked with housing association partners to provide more than 800 new affordable homes for rent or sale over the past five years while the issue has also been identified as one of its corporate priorities.
The authority say the new homes, which were built across a range of sites in Alcester, Bidford, Bishops Itchington, Kineton, Meon Vale, Shipston, Southam, Stratford, Welford and Wellesbourne, will make a vital contribution towards meeting the new housing targets in their Core Strategy.
Other highlights for the council in the past 12 months include the completion of a Rural Housing Programme.
The programme, which was originally agreed in 2012 and is financially supported by the council, has enabled the development of several community-led rural housing schemes. The final scheme – at Jubilee Fields in Stockton – was finished in June 2015.
The year has also seen the completion of a specialised extra care housing development for older people at Tithe Lodge in Southam.
Back in December Independent councillor Peter Barnes criticised the council for not doing enough to help Stratfordians get their feet on the housing ladder.
He argued there was not enough affordable properties available to rent or buy and people who had grown up in the district were being forced out by high prices.
But leader Chris Saint was quick to defend the authority, saying it was doing everything it could to improve the situation.
Coun Saint highlighted the council’s ‘Local Choice’ initiative, which allows rural communities to identify their own affordable housing needs and ensures new homes are let to those with strong ties to the area.
Speaking about the latest achievement, Coun Saint said: “Last year was not only a record-breaking achievement for the council, but also a good reflection on its long-standing commitment to meet the housing needs of our local communities.
“The fact we have continued to provide good quality affordable homes for our local residents, despite the challenging circumstances facing both the council and its partners, is a credit to all involved.
“The new affordable homes will play a crucial role in maintaining the sustainability and vitality of our towns and villages.”