Wokingham Borough News|

Wokingham Borough Council is launching a consultation on its draft housing strategy that will look at the need for housing in the borough, ensure that it builds the right homes in the right places, improves the quality of homes and ensures new communities are socially inclusive. The consultation is available on the council’s website www.wokingham.gov.uk by searching ‘current consultations’ and is open until 13 December.

The draft housing strategy is a framework document which will set the overall strategic direction for housing in the borough, with other strategies and policies linked to it, such as the homelessness and rough sleeping strategy and the Local Plan which sets out how much development, including housing, is required and where it should go. If approved, the draft strategy will be accompanied by a detailed action plan that will be reviewed and updated annually.

Housing plays a huge role in the health, environmental and economic well-being of all Wokingham borough residents.  It is more than just bricks and mortar; everyone is affected by housing.  Housing has become a defining economic and social issue with the average price of a home in the borough almost double that of the national average. Poor quality housing can have a significant impact on residents’ health and wellbeing.

Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance and housing said: “All of our residents have the right to a live in a safe, stable and comfortable home. It has become even more important that the council understands and helps to address the economic and housing issues that have arisen during the current pandemic.  We want to continue to support our most vulnerable residents and help to create vibrant, inclusive communities.  This strategy has that at its heart.

“We have done some really good work in the last few years such as delivering over 1,000 new affordable homes through our strong partnership with registered housing providers, developing ambitious regeneration programmes in the council owned housing estates at Phoenix Avenue and Gorse Ride in Finchampstead and delivering new supported housing schemes for our most vulnerable residents.

“We are on track to do even more in the future, by investing in our own housing stock and delivering over 1,000 new homes over the next 4 years.”

Wokingham Borough Council has seen some of the highest numbers of affordable homes of all local authorities in England in recent years due to its planning requirement for developers to provide up to 50% of their new housing developments as affordable housing. The borough has seen over 1,300 affordable new homes added to its housing stock in the last three and a half years and has another 2,000 coming in the future, giving more residents an affordable rent or the opportunity to part own their own homes through the council’s shared ownership schemes.

The council has also adopted an ambitious Housing 1-4-5 Challenge which will see the council lead on the development of 1,000 new homes over the next four years, mainly for social rent and low cost home ownership.

The draft housing strategy will help the council address the challenge to manage the need for new housing in the borough while protecting the quality of the environment and the sustainability of existing communities; to understand and mitigate the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the borough’s housing needs; to accommodate a growing older population with long term care needs; to tackle health issues and social isolation, as well as poverty and unemployment; and to tackle climate change and ensure house building in the borough is as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Cllr Kaiser continued: “This housing strategy is important as it will shape our approach to housing across the borough for the next four years. I would encourage our residents to look at the draft strategy and take part in the consultation. Housing is such an important issue. We need to get it right and for that we need to know what you think.”

The consultation, open until 13 December, is available on the council’s website www.wokingham.gov.uk by searching ‘current consultations’.

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