WINCHESTER’S civic chief has welcomed a government decision to scrap the cap on council borrowing against its social housing stock.

It could mean a huge boost to the provision of new council homes by an authority with a track record of building new homes.

The decision comes after prime minister Theresa May announced the news at the Conservative Party conference last week to fix the “broken” housing market.

On helping councils to build homes, Mrs May said: “There is a government cap on how much they can borrow against their housing revenue account assets to fund new developments.

“Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation. It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it.

“So today I can announce that we are scrapping that cap.”

Welcoming the decision, Cllr Caroline Horrill, Winchester City Council leader and portfolio holder for housing, said: “The need for affordable housing across the Winchester district has never been greater and the borrowing cap has been a massive constraint on the council’s ability to build the houses we so desperately need.

“Providing affordable housing is at the forefront of the council’s strategy. We have an ambitious plan to build 600 homes by 2020 and are constantly looking for ways to increase this number, including actively lobbying the government.

“Only last month, we submitted a bid for more than £25million of extra government funding in areas of high affordability pressure.

“The government’s plan to lift the borrowing cap entirely should allow us to build even more new homes so local people can enjoy the benefits of living in the district.”

The decision follows Cllr Horrill’s pledge in August to increase the city council’s affordable-house building programme.

The council already had a target of 300 new homes by 2021, but since Cllr Horrill has said they will add another 100.

Winchester has been among the few authorities across the country building a sizeable number of homes for rent to people on the waiting list.

Speaking at the time, she said: “We will promise to build more affordable homes across the district now we have greater access to government cash.

“It is the right thing to do in an area with high property prices and it’s fair to the younger generation who feel they can’t get on the housing ladder.”

Among the sites being looked at are the garages at the blocks of flats on Winnall Manor Road.

  • NEW council powers to manage the number of HMOs have come into force. Any privately rented property housing five or more people in two or more households must be licensed.