‘We want a slice of the action’: Havering Council builds own housing development company

Cllr Ron Ower, who is leading the scheme

Cllr Ron Ower, who is leading the scheme - Credit: Archant

Cllr Ron Ower has possibly the most convoluted title in local government, but his vision is very simple.

The Havering Council cabinet member for housing company development and oneSource management has been tasked with building the local authority’s very own housing company from the ground up.

It’s part of a plan to find “innovative” ways to make savings in light of the poorer deal all councils are getting from central government, and – Cllr Ower (Upminster, East Havering Residents’ Group) revealed – it’ll mean building about 1,000 properties in the Romford area over the coming years.

The aim is to build high-specification homes for Havering residents and in the process make some money for the council – which Cllr Ower can’t promise will necessarily get spent on social housing.

“We see a lot of people making money in the area and we feel we should have a slice of the action,” he said.

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“We want to provide our own housing for rental. We wish to give preference to our own people, our own residents.

“We see there’s a need for further rental properties in the borough and by doing this we think we’ll get the best of both worlds.”

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Romford’s been chosen as a launchpad for the project because of the natural demand the council envisages Crossrail is going to generate.

The multi-million pound programme to reconstruct the backbone of Greater London, stretching it out as far as Shenfield in the east and Reading in the west, should be completed in 2019 – and with it Romford is set to be even better connected to the centre of the capital.

But the town is not the only part of Havering that will benefit from improved infrastructure if everything goes to plan. Development in the south of the borough, which at the moment Cllr Ower admits is less attractive to investors, is also being considered – investment the council hopes could boost the prospects for a Beam Reach c2c station in Rainham.

The as yet unnamed housing company – which cabinet member for housing Cllr Damien White (Squirrels Heath, Con) thinks should be called Liberty Housing after Havering’s motto – presents exciting opportunities for the council, but as a company it also carries loss-making risks, which Cllr Ower played down.

“I do not see a huge risk. We’re looking at areas where there’s a huge demand for properties – like the Romford area. That area is going to change dramatically.”

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