Part 1 in a series on the Local Plan by Cllr John Halsall, Conservative Leader of Wokingham Borough Council
“People are struggling to afford good homes in in the right location: house prices are too high and the possibility of owning a home seems remote for many people; the private rental market is expensive and insecure; and there are not enough homes for social rent to meet demand. We need to build 300,000 homes per year just to meet current demand, but are barely building half that amount”. Lib Dem manifesto 2019
No-one can claim that there isn’t a problem of younger people being able to afford to buy a home in Wokingham Borough. We’re the victims of our own success – the Borough is one of the healthiest, happiest and most prosperous parts of the country, and everyone wants to live here. So the prices of homes continue to climb ever higher, forcing those who have recently grown up here to leave in search of a more affordable place to live.
We must get young people on the housing ladder. We all know someone – a child or grandchild, niece or nephew, neighbour or relative of a friend – who is struggling against an environment that makes it almost impossible to get somewhere to live in Wokingham Borough.
Housing developers are gaming the system to maximise their profits, which prejudices hard-pressed young people and families. They are hording planning permissions, while failing to build out at a fast rate, and so are restricting the supply of new homes – which has the effect of massively increasing their value. So owning a home gets pushed further and further beyond the reach of aspiring home owners.
There have been some fantastic initiatives to help ease the problem, not least the Government’s Help to Buy policy. On its own, these are not enough.
That is why I believe that the Council has a duty to act. We will step in to deliver new affordable housing, and make sure that developers are meeting solid targets for delivering affordable homes. As the democratic body for our local area, we need to help everyone in the community, not just those who already own their own home.
We’ve already had great success with housing companies, wholly owned by the Council, delivering a steady stream of new affordable and social homes. There is more to do, however.
The Local Plan provides an excellent opportunity to tackle the crisis in affordable housing. One of our key focuses as we produce a new draft of the Plan is to make sure that we are able to deliver new homes that will be truly affordable. With a clear programme of new housing in place, with delivery controlled by the Council, and the pace and place for new homes set by us, we can ensure that we are getting more affordable homes exactly where they are needed.
We owe it to those who are struggling to get onto the housing ladder, especially younger people, to enable them to be able to buy a home. We don’t want to drive people away from our Borough. Our communities will be so much weaker if talent and enthusiasm drains away to other parts of the country.
Cllr John Halsall
Leader of Wokingham Borough Council