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Hopes high for housing deals ahead of Budget

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Hopes are rising that the government will announce a string of bespoke housing deals as part of the Budget tomorrow.

LGC understands a small number of areas are hoping to get a deal that will enable them to build more homes and the associated infrastructure needed to support them.

However, in some cases negotiations are expected to continue until the last available opportunity.

LGC understands Oxfordshire is set to get a deal worth “hundreds of millions of pounds” in return for a promise to build about 100,000 homes by 2031.

The county and its five districts will be expected to work together to draw up a joint plan for where the homes will go and when they will be built. In return the local authorities are hoping to gain some planning flexibilities.

Negotiations over the deal have been underway since the summer but LGC understands discussions are still ongoing. Even if a deal is announced in the Budget, the finer detail will still need to be drawn up. There is also an expectation each council will need to formally sign up to the agreement and, if any of them turns it down, the deal could fall.

LGC exclusively revealed in March how Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Sheffield City Council and Newark & Sherwood Homes - the arm’s length management organisation of Newark & Sherwood DC – had kick-started discussions with the Department for Communities & Local Government over bespoke deals.

Carl Brazier, Stoke’s director of housing and customer services, told LGC: “We have had some positive meetings and conversations with DCLG and we are hopeful something will come out through the Budget.”

The city council has asked for greater flexibilities both regarding the borrowing cap for housing, and its use of right-to-buy receipts. A separate bid for a chunk of the DCLG’s £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund was also “received favourably”, said Mr Brazier.

LGC also understands Newark is hopeful of getting a deal.

Since the government started negotiations with Stoke, Sheffield, and Newark it has spoken to more areas about potential deals.

In September, LGC reported how the Treasury said Leeds City Council was making “good progress” on securing a housing deal in time for the Budget.

In Bristol last week communities secretary Sajid Javid said “where councils are showing real drive and ambition, the government will back them every step of the way, including with the kind of housing deal we’re negotiating here in the West of England”.

The Conservative party manifesto explicitly expressed an intention to “enter into new council housing deals with ambitious, pro-development, local authorities to help them build more social housing”. Since then the prime minister has asked councils and housing associations to bid for a share of a £2bn pot for social and affordable housing.

At the beginning of the month, the Homes & Communities Agency’s deputy chief executive Tom Walker said the government wants to do more housing deals with councils but lacks the capacity to do them on a large scale.

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