First shared ownership houses go up for sale on former MoD site in Ely - but Lib Dems criticise ‘disappointingly low’ number of affordable homes

The Kilkenny Avenue project in Ely has been supported by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combine

The Kilkenny Avenue project in Ely has been supported by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, who provided funding of £24.4 million. East Cambridgeshire District Council granted an additional loan of £1.5 million. - Credit: Archant

The first phase of shared ownership homes at the former MoD site in Ely are to become available – with strict criteria applied to those wanting to acquire them.

Situated at the former RAF housing estate, adjacent to the Princess of Wales Hospital, seven, three-bedroom shared ownership houses in Simeon Close are being offered by East Cambs Trading Company (ECTC), the arm’s length company owned by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

“The aim of the project is to refurbish the former MoD site to bring these popular houses back into use, with some being offered as affordable shared ownership homes, said council leader Anna Bailey.

The Kilkenny Avenue project, expected to reach full completion in March 2023, includes 15 shared ownership homes in total.

Property sizes range from two-bedroom to four-bedroom but the announcement was met with criticism from Lib Dem leader Lorna Dupre.

“The proportion of affordable homes to be provided on phase one of this site is disappointingly low, at just 15 out of 92—a real missed opportunity for the many local residents who need a home they can afford,” she said.

“Liberal Democrats fought hard for more affordable homes to be provided here but were fiercely opposed by Conservative councillors.”

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Cllr Dupre said that a planning application for the next phase of this site is due to be submitted by the end of this month. “Liberal Democrat councillors will be renewing the fight for a greater number of affordable homes than the mere 30 per cent planned for phase two—which is no more than the council would be asking from any commercial developer,” said.

The project is supported by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, who provided loan funding of £24.4 million in addition to a loan from East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Phase two will see eight, two-bedroom apartments released in autumn 2020.

Eligibility criteria for the scheme includes key workers. To be eligible for a shared ownership property at Simeon Close applicants must satisfy three key criteria:

!: Do not currently own a home

2: Total household income must be below £80,000

3: Satisfy ‘local connection’ criteria.

Cllr Bailey said: “The release of the first phase of affordable homes is a real milestone.”

She praised the team involved for “going the extra mile to get to this stage, working under incredibly difficult conditions due to the global COVID-19 pandemic”.

Cllr Bailey said that it was important that the redevelopment of the site was used as an opportunity to provide as many affordable shared ownership homes as possible for those who live and work locally.

“The council had to pay full open market price to the MoD for the site, so to get 15 affordable homes for the benefit of local people from this project is a significant achievement for a small local authority,” she said.

“The affordable homes are reserved for local, working people, giving them a chance to get onto the property ladder and stay in the area.

“The completion of these houses at Simeon Close supports our efforts to end the cycle of local people being forced to live further and further away from their community and where they work due to escalating housing costs.

“And the fact that this phase has been completed on time, despite setbacks caused by the pandemic, is fantastic.”

Phase one prices for the three-bedroom properties on Simeon Close start at £85,500 for a 30% share.

There is an option to purchase between 30%-60% initially, and at a later stage (having owned the property for a minimum of 12 months) additional shares up to 100 per cent can be purchased.

Lib Dem ward councillors Alison Whelan and Simon Harries as ward councillors issued a joint statement claiming that the homes – though advertised as “affordable” would be out of reach of many people.

They said: “None of these properties will be available for affordable rent.

“These shared ownership properties will be open to households earning up to £80,000 a year who will be able to increase their owned share from 30 per cent up to a full 100 per cent after only a year.

“Meanwhile people on low incomes desperately in need of a home they can really afford will be left further and further behind.”