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Council could set up own housing company

Local authority exploring option to address shortage of affordable homes

Local Democracy Reporter Alex Seabrook

newsdesk@newburynews.co.uk

Council tax set to rise by four per cent from April

WEST Berkshire Council is considering setting up its own housing company to help address the shortage of affordable accommodation in the district. 

The housing company would be similar to one set up last year in Bristol, according to councillor Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash), the lead for economic development and planning. 

Goram, owned by Bristol City Council, is planning its first development with 268 homes – 55 per cent of which will be affordable. 

Mrs Cole was responding to a public question from Neil Taylor at a meeting of the executive on December 19.

Mr Taylor had asked: “What positive steps are the council taking to alleviate the housing crisis?” 

She replied: “We are investigating setting up a local housing company, similar to the one in Bristol.” 

The Bristol company gives the city council more control over how sites are developed and more influence over what is built and when. 

Mrs Cole also highlighted the regeneration scheme in Market Street, Newbury, due to finish in 2021.

She said: “This will deliver 232 homes, 219 of which will be available for private rent and 13 for shared ownership.”

The council asks housebuilders in West Berkshire to make a portion of new homes ‘affordable’, which means mortgage payments or rent aren’t more than 30 per cent of a household’s net income. 

Mrs Cole said: “We are probably one of the only local authorities in the country which demands 40 per cent of affordable housing to be delivered on new developments on greenfield and 30 per cent on brownfield sites.”

However, Mr Taylor replied: “It may be demanded, but nevertheless the Market Street development was eight per cent, I believe.” 

According to the leading contractor for the Market Street regeneration, Engie, just 13 of the 232 homes will be affordable – less than six per cent. 

Elsewhere, Mrs Cole highlighted the council’s plans for delivering 551 new homes each year and said the local authority is currently above target. 

She also mentioned a rent incentive scheme to secure more private rented accommodation and a joint venture with housing association Sovereign to build more affordable homes for the district.

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Article comments

  • brunin the bear

    03/01/2020 - 09:46

    Hopeless and hapless, and still LOCAL people are not favoured over people being shipped in from Slough and west London by housing associations.

    Reply

  • NewburyResident

    02/01/2020 - 14:02

    Mrs Cole said: “We are probably one of the only local authorities in the country which demands 40 per cent of affordable housing to be delivered on new developments on greenfield and 30 per cent on brownfield sites.” Yet on the market street site which the council gave away £3m + of land only about 5% affordable. WBC just can't manage things so should not be entrusted in setting up a company.

    Reply