Consultation begins on plans to boost affordable housing

Reading Borough Council has begun a six-week public consultation on a new affordable housing strategy which aims to benefit those in need of affordable housing.

The proposed Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) seeks to give Reading Borough Council the opportunity to increase the number of genuinely affordable homes built for local people, whilst at the same time ensuring their rents are set at a sustainable and affordable level. It focuses on making sure that developers contribute to delivering these affordable homes and sits alongside the Council’s own Housing Strategy which was adopted on 28th September.

Whilst developers are required to provide a proportion of their development in the form of affordable housing, national planning policy states that local authorities’ expectations should not reduce the ability of developers to make a certain level of profit. This places limitations on the amount of affordable homes that can be achieved on each site.

Due to national policy, the choice for local authorities is often between:
• insisting on much lower rents, which benefits tenants in those properties but risks significantly restricting the number of affordable properties that can be obtained from developers for other prospective tenants
• accepting higher rents at up to 80% market rents, which means more affordable homes can be allocated, but at rent levels that are higher than ideal. Current outcomes show that most of affordable housing contributions are delivered at 80% of market rent.

With neither option providing the best balance for residents, Reading Borough Council intends to use the Affordable Housing SPD to strike the right balance between maximising the amount of genuinely affordable homes for local people and ensuring rents are set at a genuinely affordable level by capping them at no higher than 70% of market value. The intention is to be neither constricted by very low numbers of affordable houses, or by affordable housing contributions that are higher than the council aims to achieve for tenants.

The Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) builds on the strong policies in the Reading Borough Local Plan, adopted in November 2019, by adding important detail on how new developments will contribute. It ensures that, where a site cannot fully meet policy requirements due to financial viability at the time of application, there is a mechanism to increase the contribution if conditions improve over the development process.

Cllr John Ennis, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Housing, said: “Looking after the housing needs of our residents – both in terms of the amount of housing we can provide them and ensuring their rents are affordable – is hugely important to us. The Affordable Housing SPD will allow us to protect the interests of those in the greatest housing need, and ensure that future developments in Reading can be genuinely beneficial for all”.

The Affordable Housing SPD was passed unanimously at the Council’s Policy Committee on Monday 28th September, and was published for public consultation on Friday 2nd October. This will be live until Friday 13th November, when responses to the consultation will be taken into account in preparing a final version, which would then be adopted for use in deciding planning applications.

The draft document is available to view from the link below:

Last updated on 07/10/2020