Year one of Thanet council’s social homes pledge to help tackle housing waiting list

Thanet council has been buying homes on isle developments Photo Mary Cooke

By Mary Cooke

For the last decade, Thanet District Council has been producing an average of 18 council homes per year.

However since May 2023 there has been a sharp rise in those numbers with 209 properties being acquired or developed in the past 12 months alone. When Labour was elected last May, the council pledged to provide 400 new affordable homes for those in need over four years but are more than halfway towards meeting that goal already.

Cllr Helen Whitehead, who is deputy leader of Thanet District Council and the cabinet member for housing, said: “155 of those [209 properties] are directly down to the new housing strategy. So, we’re rapidly outstripping where we were in terms of average council house production which is enabling a lot of families to move either from temporary accommodation or off the housing list.”

Thanet District Council requires developments of 10 units and above to include 30%  affordable homes, although these won’t all necessarily be social housing and there are occasions when developers say that amount will mean the scheme isn’t viable so fewer are offered.

Over the past year it has also become evident that developers have been unable to secure deals with  affordable housing providers to take on the units and has asked the council to purchase them instead.

“We have situations where registered providers or several registered providers have said no, they won’t be taking on those units. We are now stepping in to purchase those so that we don’t lose affordable units and can create more council housing,” said Cllr Whitehead.

Thanet’s need for genuinely affordable housing has grown significantly post-Covid as property costs and private rental prices have risen above average wages. There has also been a soar in demand for homes in Thanet, with 45% fewer homes available in 2021 than in 2019.

The council-owned properties rented to those on the housing list do not cost more than the local housing allowance (or LHA) of £109.32 per week for a one bed property, and just under £150 per week for 2 bedrooms. The LHA is based on what the government terms a “Broad Rental Market”, or the area in which a person can be reasonably expected to live.

Cllr Whitehead said: “Even if you are entirely reliant on benefits to support paying rent, it’s still affordable for you.”

She calls this a “virtuous circle of housing” and when asked how this works, Cllr Whitehead said: “All of the income from rent goes straight into that and only ever goes towards either producing further housing or maintenance of existing stock, so we don’t have to make a profit.”

She said she was unable to comment on the impact developments have had on residents and the supporting infrastructure such as schools, access to health providers, development of farmland and road congestion, as these issues do not come under the affordable housing strategy.

Carbon emissions

Thanet District Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, however the construction and building sector is estimated to be responsible for emitting 37% of all greenhouse gasses globally and causes up to 50% of all climate change.

In order to offset some of that impact, Cllr Whitehead said: “We are working very hard to reduce all of our carbon emissions. Incorporating that into housing is a very big part of it.”

She uses the King Street development in Ramsgate – a former garage site which suffered from fly tipping and vandalism – as an example of building houses with the aim of achieving carbon-neutrality.

She said: “There’s been a lot of progress in terms of moving forwards and making sure that what we’re building is sustainable.”

This includes under-floor heating, building to EPC A standard and using solar-technology for the latest builds.

This means, she said, the King Street development – which was completed in 2021- will see “approximately 36,670 grams of carbon reduction over a five-year period.”

Building to the highest environmental standards means the council can “future-proof” homes in its portfolio and avoid expensive renovations in the coming years.

Thanet council has bought properties at Spitfire Green in Ramsgate

More recently new council housing has been bought -or is in the process of purchase- on developments such as Spitfire Green, Reading Street, Tothill Street and Northwood Road. There are also plans to build council homes at sites including the former Dane Valley Arms and Tomlin Drive in Margate and Staner Court and Clements Road in Ramsgate, constituting Phase 4 of the council’s affordable housing build project.

Concerns have been raised that new homes may be used for housing people who come from outside of Thanet. However, a spokesperson for Thanet council said: “There is no scope to bring people into the area under our new homes scheme, unless they are families we have a duty to house who are currently in out of area temporary accommodation.”

As of May 2024, there were 1904 households on Thanet District Council’s housing register and 288  in temporary accommodation, according to data from January, which the ramp up in council purchases and developments hopes to help tackle.

If you or someone you know needs help with housing, get help here:

Shelter England

Help With Homelessness

Citizen’s Advice

Or call Thanet District Council’s housing team on: 01843 577277

Trainee reporter Mary Cooke is currently studying an MA in Journalism (Arts) at the University of Lincoln

25 Comments

    • In terms of sheer affordability? No.

      It is cheaper to acquire properties than it is for us to build directly; so we use the two approaches as part of a holistic strategy.

      We will always need specialist housing/fully accessible housing at a rate higher than the private market produces it; but simultaneously we also need to build the portfolio to ensure that families can move off the waiting list and have secure tenancies.

      The more specialist housing that we need we produce, and simultaneously produce it to a higher energy rating than we usually find on the private market (including roof solar panels etc) and to ensure that people in out of area temporary accommodation and those on our housing list are accommodated we purchase, at a lower cost.

      • Does anyone keep a record of those in Council properties to ensure that if due to life changes, inheritance, increased salary for example, they actually still warrant a council property? They should not be tenancies for life but a help in times of need. They should also never be sold off.

  1. TBH though I now tend to see all Parties as more or less the same, I have to admit that the current Labour council is trying its best
    Not enough council housing of course. And I resent local taxpayers giving vast sums of money to already-rich property developers. Just to get them to build and sell affordable housing.Which the developers can’t sell to other social housing providers like Housing Associations as they charge too much. So TDC gets screwed by the builders just to ensure that all residents get what is their Right, a decent affordable home.
    So my respect to TDC for heading in the right direction. But ,by god , the private building companies screw us all the way
    No wonder the politicians all declare “the country can’t afford it” when we ask for much-needed improvements. Because everything we do to improve things has to be done by ” Private Providers” and they always take advantage of our hopes fears and dreams to enrich themdelves first.
    OUR basic needs come a distant second

    • To be clear, the money used to buy the discounted properties that developers have to set aside comes from the ring-fenced housing revenue account, which is where we hold council rents and which also funds repairs to council housing stock. We don’t use council tax or borrow against council tax to buy these homes, so it is not a cost to the general population.

      In fact when we are able to move someone from temporary accommodation into one of these new council homes the general population benefits because temporary accommodation is a cost that does fall on everyone.

      We have to work within the system as it is, but we’d all agree that having to rely on the private sector’s construction of market housing to deliver affordable properties is far from ideal.

  2. “As of May 2024, there were 1904 households on Thanet District Council’s housing register and 288 in temporary accommodation”

    Interested what the stats were in May 2023 when Labour took power. That’s how we will determine how successful or otherwise the strategy is.

    • Well, no, bluntly.

      The increase is how we know it is successful; homelessness figures link to external factors which can’t be determined by Councils, such as rent inflation, gentrification, and the move to short term rentals.

      Unless you’re just looking to pretend that a national Housing crisis has been caused by a small district council…

      • Though it has to be said that TDC effectively wanted cliftonville gentrified and used selective licensing to help nudge things in that direction. Having cited low property prices and the areas lack of attractiveness to homebuyers as part of the justification in the consultation. So not entirely external factors, plus having wanted to improve the areas tourist potential there was always going to be a need for more accomodation and until such time as there’s sufficient year round trade the hotel industry isn’t going to find margate viable solely for its summer trade. Tdc have more than one finger in the pie.

      • Well this is exactly what your administration is going to be judged on after your term of office.

        Are the streets cleaner than before you took power ? Is the Council still running at an overspend of over £1m a year ? Has the Housing waiting list reduced overall ? Has anti social behaviour and graffiti reduced ? Are the toilets open for longer periods ?

        There’s plenty more examples but we vote in our local politicians to improve things in the local area, not to say “well things have got worse but not as bad as they could have been”

        It’s probably inconvenient for you as elected members but that’s a reality you need to all face up to.

        • I think you’re confusing correlation, causation and external factors simultaneously.

          People who know that we’re in a housing crisis don’t assume that local efforts can entirely eradicate the impact of a national crisis.

          Likewise people who know that Councils have lost 60% of their core funding don’t (if they’re reasonable) assume that such a loss has no impact on services (although it’s worth pointing out that we’ve also increased the number of street cleansing staff, as well as increasing housing acquisition).

          You’ve made a false correlation. Increasing yearly Council housing production and acquisition by 700% in 7 months is, in and of itself, a successful strategy.

          Whether the national crisis continues in relation to housing simultaneously is an entirely separate issue.

    • You are so correct but you will never get a straight or truthful answer from labour, there just the same as Tories. They all cannot be trusted

    • I see they are advertised with ‘Excellent schools close by’ too, no mention of doctors surgeries.
      The area is under pressure from all the utilities now including policing NHS etc.

      • Possibly with the exception of the parts that don’t can’t use a calculator, avoid the fire safety order act 2005, don’t read the reports they commission ( and then contract works that don’t need doing) don’t actually check that work they charge for has been done, charge for the same works twice in separate years, change the description of works they charge for to move costs away from the council and onto leaseholders, when asked for confirmation that figures are correct will usually do so despite the figures being patently incorrect leaving leaseholders to then have to point out the error of the councils ways,all of which could be seen as awesome but not for the right reasons.

  3. If council’s could acquire land at reasonable prices instead of buying housing at speculative prices that would be better,but then everyone would moan about compulsory purchase. We are where we are with a dysfunctional housing market,and TDC are doing their best in difficult circumstances.
    As an election is in the offing,I think many of the comments are based on Which end of the electoral telescope you are looking from.
    Labour or Conservative, Westwood cross is a planning disaster and an object lesson in how not to plan a community.
    The Spitfire green development is especially beastly, but given a choice of living in a rundown B&B or there, I know what I would choose.

    • I doubt the council could build economically. They lost 1 million on the plumbing / legionella contract they had with P&R. Not forgetting the opportunity cost of the cash tied up during the build process. Though from previous announcements regarding Jackie Bakers land might be transferred and the council build it out.

      Given that the homes at Spitfire aren’t going to wash their face for around 18 years, thye have to be built as cheap as possible to make any sort of econimic reality at LHA rates, unless of course its an area that a new Labour government are going to have some say in finacially.

      The whole planning process up there has been going on for years and you’dhave to guess there are a few murky areas there given the way in which Clive Hart and Sue Mcgonegal moved on after prolonged gardening leave and being found innocent of any wrongdoings, in which case why did’nt they stay on?

      Remains to be seen how WX ends up, but if the anecdotal evidence of the mix of housing association , part rent part buy ( the onerous terms for the “homeowners” must be a scandal in the making, that in time will make the leasehold debacle look insignificant) , private land lords and a smattering of outright owner occupiers is correct it doesn’t seem a promising mix.

      As for you last comment given the behaviour of the councils residents in the old Oasis building at times, they certainly won’t give a monkeys where they live and no self respecting private landlord is likely to grant them a tenancy. Interesting bunch.

  4. So the council are saying that they are buying houses that aren’t selling. So why are they building so many and not stopping over development facts and figures don’t add up.

    • I would assume because people can’t afford to buy a house directly. This is shown by the increase in need for social housing, which they are trying to address.

    • One of the articles stated that the homes were the affordable housing % of a development but that the number of homes available was insufficient to be of interest to the housing associations or other social providers leaving TDC as the only interested party.
      No developer is going to build homes it thinks won’t sell, and in the absence of knowing what sector the homes being built end up in. ( social housing for local providers, social housing for providers looking to move people from other areas, shared ownership, affordable social provision, build to rent at market rents or owner occupation) it’s just about impossible to know what is going on.

  5. Cllr Helen Whitehead! Any hope you can stand as the Labour Party candidate at the next General Election? South Thanet needs you!

  6. Building council homes is a no-brainer. However, there is the personal bit. I have talked to quite a few of the people with new Council tenancies in Broadstairs and St Peters and you would have to callous and hard hearted not to the delight and joy the tenants have – usually getting out of the dreadful and expensive private rental sector. Along with free universal education and the NHS, Council housing is one of the three pillars to combat poverty, illness and deprivation. Can only repeat the old mantra – More, Now please.

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