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Reading considers building new council homes

Words: Laura Edgar

Ambitious plans to build up to 1,000 council homes in the town over 30 years have been revealed.

With more than 9,000 people on the town’s waiting list for a home and homelessness numbers tripling since 2011, Reading Borough Council has revealed a scheme to meet the growing need for affordable housing.

With local authorities now able to keep income from rent for the first time in 25 years, the borough council will invest the money in its existing council homes and in building up to 1,000 properties across Reading. 

It will borrow against future rental income, which will be paid back by income from rents, and receipts from selling homes under Right to Buy, amongst other things, to fund the programme. All borrowing will be paid back after 30 years.

The proposals come after Housing Quality Network (HQN) conducted an independent study and found that Reading Borough Council has the capacity to deliver a programme of approximately 1,000 homes in a 30-year period. It was also found that the council is in a position to invest in its current stock, including further investments in energy efficiency. 

The council already owns land for up to 300 homes and funds are included in the proposals to buy sites for the additional 700 homes.

Councillor Richard Davies, lead member for housing, has said that the proposals for new council housing and improvements to existing housing “represents a significant investment” as well as demonstrating a commitment to “providing good-quality housing”.

He explained: “This important programme aims to alleviate what I have publicly called Reading’s housing crisis, whereby thousands of households are in housing need and homelessness is rising steeply. Despite our improving economy, many people are in danger of being left behind because of spiralling rental prices and the high cost of living.

“All our council houses meet decent homes standards, are genuinely affordable and are, importantly, under democratic control - managed by the council in consultation with tenants.

“Reading is a tight urban area and finding suitable sites for building will continue to prove challenging, but land has already been identified for the first phase of new homes, including more than 40 at Conwy Close. I look forward to seeing real construction work commencing.”

The council’s policy committee will consider the proposals at a meeting on Monday, 22 September.