Tue, 03 Jan 2017
COUNCIL-owned land could be given away to developers to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing in West Berkshire.
The Conservative-run West Berkshire Council admits it is “most unlikely” to hit its manifesto commitment to deliver 1,000 affordable homes by 2020.
The council’s own figures show that 267 affordable homes have been completed since April 2015.
It subsequently put together an action plan to address the issue and has come up with two ideas to increase the number of affordable homes.
A report circulated to councillors last week said: “One area is a suggestion that the council reconsiders its approach to its own estate and whether the development of affordable homes on its own land should be a priority.
“We have very limited land that is suitable for residential development but if members were minded to forgo a capital receipt this would be achievable.
“Another positive area arises from our joint working with Sovereign Housing Association (SHA) as a key delivery partner for affordable housing.
“This has generated a proposal that has, as part of it, the capacity to realise an additional 40-plus affordable housing units.”
The council also admits in the report that there are “increasing difficulties in securing the desired level of affordable homes on new developments”.
This issue has been highlighted on more than one occasion recently – not least the development at Market Street, Newbury, which was approved last month.
West Berkshire Council gave the land, valued at £3.9m, free to developer Grainger in return for it developing the area and providing new facilities such as a multi-storey car park.
But despite this, only 13 of the 225 homes being built will be affordable – because Grainger said it would not be viable for them to provide more.
The council also says it is ready to refuse planning permission for 2,000 homes at Sandleford Park – up to 800 of which would be affordable – over several disputes with the developer.
West Berkshire Council’s opposition leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that soaring house prices and a lack of affordable homes were driving people away from West Berkshire.
Land Registry data revealed the average house price in the district rose by 10 per cent in the 12 months – from £313,717 in August 2015 to £345,097 in August 2016.