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Affordable housing is a 'key focus' for new Royal Borough housing company boss

Providing affordable housing in the borough has been described as a ‘major challenge’ by the new managing director of the Royal Borough’s property company.

Barbara Richardson joined the council as managing director of RBWM Property Company Ltd on Monday, October 2 and will focus on making sure a target of 30 per cent affordable housing is met in town centre developments, and creating a property portfolio.

With a background in private house building, and having just come from a managing director position delivering a development and investment programme at Lampton 360 Ltd, which is owned by the London Borough of Hounslow, Ms Richardson believes she is more than capable of getting the job done.

She said: “The challenges in Windsor and Maidenhead are not specific.

“There is a housing crisis across the whole of the country and probably beyond the UK in terms of where the problem starts and stops.

“My mission is to help and support building a borough for everyone and in doing that creating a property portfolio for affordable rent and private accommodation.”

The redevelopment of the four joint venture (JV) sites being run by Countryside and the council will see 1,000 homes built in the town centre and 2,000 homes are earmarked for Maidenhead Golf Club – a search for a JV partner for this site will be launched next month.

The council is hoping 900 of these new homes will be a mix of shared ownership, where you part buy and part rent, affordable rent, which is anything up to 80 per cent of market rent, and social rent, which in Maidenhead is estimated will be 50 to 60 per cent of market rent, but will depend on where you are in the borough.

Key worker housing can sit into any of those categories and is a target group the borough is trying to attract.

In addition to the 30 per cent of affordable housing, there will also be help to buy schemes.

The borough was recently named as one of the most unaffordable local authorities outside London, with house prices being more than 13 times the average salary.

In response Ms Richardson said: “This area is above average for the South-east in terms of property prices and across the whole of England.

“The average house price in Maidenhead is £550k, and the average income is £45k.

“If you wanted to buy a property of £550k, with a 20 per cent deposit, you would need a £125k salary, the income to house ratio is 12.4, which is when a mortgage company will only lend you three to four times your joint income, then you’ve got no hope in terms of a mortgage.”

When asked how the council would guarantee it meets the 30 per cent target, she said there is a legal agreement in place with the developer.

“Coming from a private house building background I have a good ability to scrutinise and make sure they stick to the agreement and deliver what we expect them to,” she added.

RBWM Property Company Ltd, formerly known as Two5Nine, was set up in 2011 but changed its name in May 2016. The company has made a loss for the last two years.

When asked if she was looking to make the company profitable, Ms Richardson said: “My key focus is to get as much affordable housing out there as possible.

“Affordable housing doesn’t generally make any profit, but the company can’t trade at a loss. So yes, it has to create some value and that’s part of my job. I will provide development services to the local authority and that will be done by a service level agreement, they will pay for those services and that will cover the costs so we are not trading in solvent.”

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