03:00PM, Monday 12 July 2021
Building affordable houses on council-owned sites will hold the key to driving up home ownership in the borough, a councillor has said.
Last week the Royal Borough agreed to adopt its housing strategy for the next five years which included the aim of increasing the amount of shared ownership and affordable rented properties in the borough.
The council’s cabinet member for housing, Councillor Ross McWilliams, told the Advertiser this type of housing was most likely to be brought forward on land owned by the Royal Borough.
He said: “In terms of where more affordable units can come forward, on almost all of the council’s own land, that can deliver affordable housing in a way privately-owned land can’t because unlike privately-owned land, there’s not the same need to deliver profit to shareholders.
“That’s why Maidenhead Golf Course is so important because it’s a large scale site owned by the council that can deliver hundreds of new affordable units across a range of tenures going from shared ownership to social housing.
“There’s quite a lot of controversy around Maidenhead Golf Course and people are concerned but in terms of an opportunity to deliver affordable housing this is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity to correct historic wrongs of not having delivered appropriate levels of affordable housing.”
Figures from the council’s strategic housing market assessment show there is a need for 434 new affordable homes in the borough each year.
But the council has fallen way short of these targets in recent years, with 70 units built in 2019/20, 58 projected to be built in 2020/21 and 77 planned for 2021/22.
Cllr McWilliams said the numbers highlighted the difficulty of delivering affordable housing in the borough.
He also conceded the huge costs involved in regenerating brownfield sites in the town centre has prevented private developers from bringing forward affordable housing.
He added: “Unfortunately the national planning guidance is clear; affordable housing is not a statutory obligation that developers have to deliver so viability often squeezes out affordable housing at privately-owned sites as developers look to protect profit margins.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Joshua Reynolds (Furze Platt), who sits on the council’s development management committee, accused the council of letting developers ‘off the hook’ in bringing forward a lack of affordable housing at town centre sites like The Landing.
He said: “Look at Maidenhead specifically, we’re letting the developers take our town centre and do what they want to it.
“We’re going from a shopping centre to a 25-storey building and what do we get back as residents in Maidenhead?
“We don’t get the affordable housing for young people to buy homes.”
He added the council’s full focus should be on providing social housing and affordable rented properties.
He also urged the local authority to listen to residents over their fears of redeveloping Maidenhead Golf Course and cutting out one of the town’s ‘green lungs’.
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