Council bosses say they are taking a major step forward to solving the district’s housing crisis by buying student flats and converting them into family homes.
A £23 million investment means the authority will be able to buy 44 properties containing 193 student bedrooms and convert them into 63 self-contained flats and houses.
The properties are off the Sturry Road in Parham Close, Riverdale House, Albert Mews, Stour Promenade and Glenside Avenue.
Council leader Simon Cook said: “This deal has been a long time coming and is the result of a great deal of hard work by officers behind the scenes that we have not been able to talk about for fear of being gazumped by those with deeper pockets than our own.
“These properties, which are close to the city centre, will provide a massive boost in the number of socially-rented homes across the district.
“Local people tell us affordable housing is one of their key priorities and high house prices and market rents are an issue.
“This is part of an ongoing programme to increase the number of council flats and houses that started in 2015. By 31 March this year, we had already bought 47 homes.”
As of April 9, there were 2,325 households which for various reasons are unable to afford private housing
Statistics show homes that are among the cheapest 25% of properties in the district, known as the lower quartile, costs more than 13 times the income of the 25% lowest earners.
House-price-to-income ratios show most single earners and people on low incomes cannot afford to buy or rent a home.
The council is approached by around 1,000 households a year who fear they are about to be made homeless.
However, the authority has faced criticism for allowing too many purpose built student blocks to appear in the city when existing blocks are not being occupied and there is a perceived need for more family homes.
Cllr Cook added: “Buying and adapting these properties rather than starting from scratch has a number of advantages: it would be impossible to find a similar size site, negotiate its acquisition, get planning permission and develop 63 homes in anywhere near the same timeframe
“Having a large number of homes in the same place makes managing them much easier when compared to homes spread across the district.
“The council can tailor the existing properties to suit its immediate housing needs. By providing more permanent homes for families in housing need, there should be less need for temporary accommodation.”
The council borrowed £9 million for its purchase and it is expected that all homes will be ready by next year, but some families will be able to move in as early as next month.