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Council's 'affordable homes' announcement meets with less than ecstatic response

St Joseph's Court under construction. Photo by Whiteway resident John Rawlings

Bath and North East Somerset Council has made some progress on its commitment to build more affordable housing.

Today the council announced that it has bought two three-bed homes on the new St Joseph’s Court at Sladebrook Road, Southdown, which is being built by the council-owned construction company, Aequus Construction Limited. These properties will be available to residents on a shared ownership basis.

Keen to reach a target of net carbon zero by 2030, the council has ensured that the new homes will feature energy efficiency measures such as air source heat pumps and solar panels, which are also expected to save residents more than 50 per cent on energy bills. The houses will benefit from electric vehicle charging points too.

Councillor Tom Davies, cabinet member for Council House Building, said:

There’s a huge demand for affordable homes right across the district and we’re determined to rise to the challenge of meeting that demand. We will continue to work with partners to deliver more affordable housing for residents. Later this summer we will also be announcing details of the first phase of our new Council House programme.

St Joseph’s Court is named after the former Roman Catholic church which stood on the site and was well-known to the Southdown community. The development consists of nine three-and four-bedroom houses, including the two shared-ownership properties. A legal covenant will restrict any future use of the homes as HMOs.

Despite the confident tones of the council's press release, some residents of South West Bath where the development is located seem less than impressed. On a Facebook group serving the Twerton, Whiteway and Southdown areas of Bath, one resident wrote:

Whoop, whoop, TWO affordable houses, that's certainly going to help all those needing homes.

Someone else added:

Affordable to actual local young adults looking to get on the housing ladder…? Have a laugh.

Other responses can be read here. The general sentiment appears to be that the development is small compared to the enormity of the social and affordable housing crisis - and that people in lower-income brackets cannot afford these properties anyway. The council has provided no figures pertaining to the actual affordability of the homes.

One further point that critics may have missed has more to do with the use of resources. It seems that Aequus has two Directors who were paid £236,000 in 2019 and £287,000 in 2020. The company is a subsidiary of the council's Aequus Developments Ltd which paid out £34,000 in Directors' bonuses. If those big salaries and bonuses had been trimmed back somewhat, might the council have been able to make one of the properties at St Joseph's Court a true council house for social rent?

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