The row over the exact nature of the new social housing being built at Rockwell Green rumbled on at the recent town council meeting. Some councillors felt that Taunton Deane had reneged on an original promise to replace 10 demolished council houses with 26 new ones rentable on the same terms.
A thorough analysis of the two-year saga by Cllr John Thorne showed the policy changes that had moved an original 26 properties at social rents (traditional ”council houses”) to 21 at affordable rents, two shared ownership and three at social rents. Social rents are at 50% or market rates and affordable rents are 80%. According to Cllr Thorne the difference can be as much as £41 per month.
TDBC say the changes are driven by financial pressures, partly government polices that make it reduce social rents by four years from 2016 and partly by a 4% rise in the cost of the scheme to £3.64m.
Taunton Deane Cllr Terry Beale, Executive member for housing, said: “We are fully committed to providing homes that people can afford to rent or buy. At the Weavers Arms site we are regenerating the area around the old pub and replacing ten old Woolaway homes with 26 modern and energy efficient properties.
“The approach we are taking is supported by our tenants, through the Tenants’ Forum and the Tenant Services Management Board who can see the benefits for local people.
“There is a desperate need for affordable housing and we are doing our utmost to help by using money from Right to Buy and from rental income to build more homes for the people who are in need.”
Three homes will be let at to people who were re-located from their former homes. The other “re-located residents” have decided to remain in their current homes.
Twenty one homes will be let at an “affordable rent” level. These properties are still owned by the council and will be let in the usual way through the choice based lettings system, Homefinder Somerset and will be allocated based on need in accordance with the local lettings plan.
Whatever the merits or demerits of the change in policy the town council felt that it had been misled over the precise nature of the new Rockwell Green housing and resolved to write to Taunton Dean expressing disappointment at the lack of clarity in the matter..