29 January 2024
Consulting on affordable housing
Wokingham Borough Council is asking for feedback on two new draft housing strategies, one on affordable housing and the other on housing for priority groups of young people.
By affordable housing, the council means housing for those residents whose housing needs are not met by the general market, such as discounted rents and affordable home ownership arrangements.
The council is inviting everyone to feedback on the priorities and actions in the draft strategies until 18 February on its Engage Wokingham Borough platform.
The need for affordable housing
Wokingham borough is an expensive area, and with the added impact of rising energy prices, interest rates and inflation sending the country into a cost of living crisis, the need to address affordable housing is greater than ever.
The average price of a home in the borough is £511,505, which is nearly £220,000 more than the national average of £292,882. The current population of 177,500 people is expected to increase around nine per cent between 2018 and 2028.
As of September 2023, there were 606 households on the council’s housing register identified as having priority housing needs. These are set out in the Housing Allocation Policy and include those fleeing domestic abuse, care leavers, members of the armed forces who have been injured in action, where someone has an urgent health or disability need or where the property is unsuitable such as being under occupied, over-crowded, posing a serious risk to life or has been compulsory purchased.
Building on success
The draft Affordable Housing Strategy 2024 to 2028, co-produced with tenants, partners and other key stakeholders, builds on the success and learning of the previous strategy and looks to address future challenges.
The council has delivered a range of activities over the course of the current strategy, including delivering one of the highest number of new affordable homes in England over the past three years at 542.
It has also delivered specialist housing schemes for key workers, adult social care users, care leavers and temporary accommodation; been awarded government funding for projects such as tackling rough sleeping, refugee housing and improving energy rating; and helped people get private rented housing through schemes such as the deposit loan scheme.
The updated draft strategy prioritises understanding what the housing needs in the borough are, providing suitable accommodation options for the most vulnerable residents, and encouraging a positive social impact that promotes inclusive growth and develops thriving communities. It also looks to make homes healthy, safe, efficient, environmentally sustainable and well designed.
Increasing need for young people
There is an increasing need for affordable housing for young people, with 200 young people approaching the council about homelessness between October 2022 and September 2023.
Evictions nationwide are at an all-time high, reducing housing security, straining relationships and increasing family breakdowns; the leading cause of 16 and 17 year olds at risk of homelessness.
The council anticipates that there will be 172 care leavers requiring affordable housing over the next four years, partly due to an increase in unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) care leavers. The number of UASC has risen since 2022 when the government set mandatory targets for local authorities to take in UASC.
The draft Young People’s Housing Strategy 2024 to 2028, co-produced with young people, residents and partners, focuses on the 16 and 17 year olds who are at risk of homelessness and those who are moving out of the care system. The draft strategy recognises that although other young people may need help, especially in owning their own home, their needs can be met through the Affordable Housing Strategy.
The young people’s strategy prioritises expanding housing options for these groups of young people, supporting them to keep their tenancies, reducing homelessness and rough sleeping and working with young people to plan next steps for their housing needs.
Help us shape the next phase
Cllr Stephen Conway, leader of the council and executive member for housing, said: “As a council affordable housing remains one of our top priorities. Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to live.
“Since our last strategy, we have achieved many things, including increasing specialist housing for those needing more support such as care leavers, adult social care users and those sleeping rough, completed phase one of the Gorse Ride regeneration project and increased temporary accommodation for families at risk of homelessness.
“This is your opportunity to help shape the next phase of our affordable housing work, so please do take the time to feedback on our proposed strategies so that we can take your views into account during discussion and decisions.”
For further support
Visit the council’s cost of living help hub for the latest advice and support options.