A SIX-million-pound council loan fund to create more affordable homes in South Lakeland has been welcomed.

South Lakeland District Council is to allow housing associations access to borrow at a low rate of finance to support the delivery of 48 new properties.

In exchange SLDC will receive a financial return from repayment of the loans and fulfil its pledge to work with partners to deliver the affordable homes needed in towns and villages across South Lakeland.

If the first funding projects are successful the council may consider increasing the loan fund to £15 million.

Housing associations face financial difficulties finding the money to build more affordable housing in an area where land prices are high.

Cllr Matt Severn praised the new initiative and said children often suffered from poor housing.

“If you’re having to try and do your homework and get a good night’s sleep for your exams, and you’re in one room with your younger sibling or parents, or the house you live in is freezing cold or full of mould or ruinously expensive to heat, you will be stressed, you won’t study as well, you’ll struggle to sleep and you may fall asleep at school and fall behind,” he said.

Cllr Severn, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Kendal West, added: “Everyone deserves the ability to put a key in the door and turn the lock. I am delighted this council is tackling that with these funds.”

Deputy council leaderJonathan Brook, the housing portfolio holder, said the project was only possible because of the council’s careful handling of finances.

“We look to manage our budgets for the long term and for the benefit of those most in need of our support,” said Cllr Brook, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Kendal South and Natland.

SLDC council leader Giles Archibald added: “We do want to deliver affordable housing and we will deliver on that pledge. We are conscientious and must do it in a way that we can afford it.”

Cath Purdy, chief executive of not-for-profit South Lakes Housing, said increasing new affordable homes locally was a “key priority”.

The housing association is the largest provider of affordable rented housing in South Lakeland and manages over 3,000 homes. It has plans to build over 300 new homes over the next few years.

Mrs Purdy said: “By working in partnership with SLDC, this funding will unlock schemes which may otherwise not have been possible and provide much-needed homes for local people.”

Research has shown that up to 320 new homes need to be built every year across South Lakeland – including the Lake District National Park.