Royal Borough planning officers raise affordable rental home concerns

Royal Borough planning officers raise affordable rental home concerns

Simon Meechan

Planning officers are concerned about the council's refusal to include rental homes in its affordable housing policy.

Last night the Royal Borough's policy committee discussed how to improve the rate of home ownership in Windsor and Maidenhead, and heard a presentation from Tim Willcocks, an assistant director at Radian, a housing association which owns and manages about 2,700 properties in the borough.

Cllr George Bathurst (Con, Sunninghill and Ascot) told Mr Willcocks that the borough's 'planning fraternity' were 'pushing away' from shared ownership schemes, where a buyer purchases a minimum 25 per cent stake in a home, and pays 'affordable' rent on the remaining share.

But the borough's director of development and regeneration, Chris Hilton, said the planners' resistance is to the borough's commitment to only providing affordable housing to buy, not rent.

He said: "The market needs assessment is still showing a need for affordable rental. That's where our concern is."

Cllr Jack Rankin (Con, Castle Without), a trading analyst for a multi-national utility company who revealed he is looking to buy a home in Windsor, said: "The emphasis should be to buy, not rent. I do not aspire for my rent to be lower, I aspire to own a home."

The Royal Borough Conservative Party's 2015 manifesto promises to deliver home ownership through shared equity schemes, while its first Borough Local Plan consultation said the council should 'only' support shared equity and home ownership models for affordable housing, not rental.

Mr Willcocks told councillors the latest right to buy scheme, announced by the Government last year, has 'gone quiet' and he believes it deliver fewer homes than originally expected. Five housing associations are part of a pilot scheme, none of which operate in the Royal Borough.

Mr Willcocks said shared ownership could deliver a lot of new homes, adding that the schemes are 'accessible for a lot of people'.

Eligibility for such schemes is determined by comparing incomes to house prices.

But he admitted those on 'lower incomes' will 'struggle' to afford even the minimum 25 per cent stake in a shared ownership home, or be able to buy any of the £250,000 price capped Starter Homes which the Government wants built.

He said: "This is a high value area, there's a broad range across the borough, but a lot of very high value areas. That makes delivering any of these schemes a real challenge. We're in competition with house builders who have a vested interest in pushing prices as high as they can."



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