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News release from: 11/01/2024

Further Ermine Street Housing investment proposed

Further Ermine Street Housing investment proposed

New plans outline how South Cambridgeshire District Council could lend its Housing company an extra £20 million - to help reduce homelessness and provide further good-quality private rented homes.

The additional loan – which will be discussed by the Scrutiny and Overview Committee next week, then Cabinet and Full Council in February – would be provided to Ermine Street Housing which purchases homes on the open market.

Some would go towards buying new properties in South Cambridgeshire for use on a temporary basis by single people who are homeless. This would help reduce the amount the Council spends on costly bed and breakfast accommodation.

In recent years, more people have approached the Council for support once they are already homeless - rather than when they are threatened with homelessness. There is therefore a continued need for this type of shorter-term accommodation.

Using the private rental market, Ermine Street Housing already owns and rents out approximately 530 properties in and around Cambridgeshire – having been provided with an initial £100 million Council loan which has been spread over the past ten years. Ermine Street also leases around 190 properties from the Ministry of Defence. The additional £20 million set to be discussed by councillors would also allow Ermine Street to purchase more homes for rent.

Helping to ensure there is good quality, private rented accommodation in the local ‘travel to work’ area is an important part of the Council’s Housing policy, given the demand for private rented homes because of the strength of the Greater Cambridge economy and its impact on house prices.

Ermine Street also provides a regular income for the Council, which helps pay for services that residents rely on. Last year, Ermine Street Housing provided the Council with an income of £3.6 million and forecasts suggest the figure for this year will be £4.25 million.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr John Batchelor, said: “This loan would help to provide additional local temporary accommodation for single people who become homeless. This in turn would reduce the amount we need to spend on expensive bed and breakfast accommodation under our homelessness responsibilities. It would also help to ensure there is further good quality private rented homes in the district – which we know there is a need for. Times continue to be tough for councils, as we need to do more with less. Innovative schemes like Ermine Street help ensure we continue to be financially secure whilst providing vital frontline services that residents want and need.”

If councillors approve the £20 million in extra loan funding, the offer will also need to be accepted by the Ermine Street Housing board. The loan would then be provided during the next two financial years.

South Cambridgeshire District Council owns and manages its own stock of around 5,500 Council houses with Ermine Street Housing set up so the Council could operate in the private sector – helping provide a further income stream for services.