Flintshire County Council’s (FCC) SHARP programme is set to deliver 500 social and affordable purchase homes over five years and is the county’s first council housebuilding activity in more than 30 years.
Wates Residential North was appointed by FCC as sole development partner for the programme, with the first SHARP project (Custom House Court in Connah’s Quay) successfully completed ahead of programme in December 2016. The scheme is the first new-build housing project to be completed by a Welsh local authority since the introduction of self-financing in April 2015.
SHARP will ensure that FCC’s strategically important sites are developed for housing, with higher value sites offsetting the costs and increasing viability of less valuable sites. The 500 new homes will incorporate 200 council homes and 300 new affordable homes respectively, with FCC providing the 200 council homes for rent through a new local lettings policy, easing the ever-growing pressure on its housing register and ensuring local people are prioritised for new homes.
The 300 homes earmarked for affordable home ownership will be managed by NEW (North East Wales) Homes Ltd, a private company that has been established by FCC as sole shareholder. The company is designed to generate returns for FCC to reinvest in its key projects, alongside meeting the need for new housing.
All homes delivered through the SHARP programme will be built to the Flintshire Housing Standard, which sets a high design and layout specification and excellent quality standards far in excess of what is traditionally expected for new-build social housing.
Challenges and solutions
With high levels of employment but high percentages of semi-skilled jobs, a third of Flintshire households can only afford to purchase a property at £100,000 or less.
With average market prices of £120,000 for two-bed houses and £144,000 for three bedrooms, the challenges faced by prospective homeowners are obvious.
Renting is also a challenge for many, with an average annual income of £26,000 required to rent at market rate – 43% of Flintshire residents earn less than this.
Through SHARP, FCC is creating new social and affordable homes to address these issues, driving regeneration in key locations where the private market will not take a risk.
Bringing together the team for the delivery of SHARP was in itself fundamental to the success of the programme, with this level of council house-building activity being practically unheard of at local authority level for many years.
SHARP combines key inter-departmental resources including Housing, Finance, Communities First, Design and Consultancy, Streetscene, Highways, Business Development and Communications into one project team, all focused on the successful delivery of the new-build programme.
This innovative approach has attracted great interest from both Welsh and English local authorities, who have visited Flintshire’s SHARP team to discuss the programme and its successes and challenges to date, with a view to replicating the delivery model within their own organisations.
The building of new homes through the SHARP programme will greatly contribute to the regeneration of Flintshire through the use of council land and buildings, creation of local employment and training opportunities and community benefits.
The SHARP model maximises the creation of local jobs and apprenticeships and through Wates’ local sub-contractors, will help retain the ‘Welsh pound’ in Wales.
The first phase of SHARP includes a total of 104 new council and affordable homes across two sites in Connah’s Quay and Flint. The first site of 12 new council homes in Connah’s Quay was completed in December 2016 and the remaining 92 properties are being built on a former council housing site, which had been demolished as part of the regeneration of Flint Town Centre.
The first completed development (Custom House Court, Connah’s Quay) generated £2,144,251 worth of economic, environmental and social value. This high level of positive social impact will provide a benchmark for each of the current and forthcoming SHARP developments.