WINCHESTER civic chiefs are setting aside £10million for major land acquisition to enable it to build more homes for rent.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for housing and asset management on the Lib Dem controlled city council, told Cabinet: “Right to buy has reduced our housing stock, but we have turned a corner. Our home building programme is making a difference to residents in the district on average incomes.”

The council has a target, introduced by the Conservatives when in power, of building 1,000 homes within ten years.

The Cabinet approved a 30-year housing business plan at its meeting last Wednesday.

Over the long-term the council has a £173 million building programme and the potential to borrow up to £407million towards new builds and retrofitting existing houses to make them greener. The council will take advantage of the historically low borrowing rates.

Its business plan envisages 1,630 new homes over the next 30 including shared ownership homes totalling 279 units.

Tory councillor Caroline Horrill said the council needed to be building homes for ‘social rent’ as well as ‘affordable rent’ which is 80 per cent of the market rents, which in Winchester are relatively high. The average two-bed affordable rent is £162 a week; a two-bed social rent is £102.

Cllr Learney said: “We all want social rent but it cannot be at the expense of affordable homes, full stop. We will continue to keep rents as low as possible and continue to seek Government grant to move houses from affordable to social rents.

“We are looking to drive down the costs of development which is quite high in Winchester. If we reduce costs we can make homes viable at lower rents.”

Cllr Horrill said: “We support the 1,000-home target, after all we introduced it, and we support new land acquisition. But we don’t support the way these decisions are being taken.”

That was echoed by members of the TACT group that involves tenants, Monica Gill and David Light, who complained to the Cabinet about poor communication.

Cllr Jackie Porter said with Covid-19 there had been problem of communication with many tenants not using the internet and so missing out on Zoom meetings.

An energy officer will be employed to coordinate activity to reduce the council’s and their tenants’ carbon footprint.