Meeting the need for affordable housing in the Royal Borough

Housing is one of the most talked about subjects within the Borough, especially in Maidenhead. Thousands of new properties are due to be built in both St Marys and Oldfield wards over the next few years. Whilst housing is needed, the current proposed housing does not meet the council's published identified needs of the local people and is being built in areas that are already heavily populated or on Greenbelt land. The current administration is making much of the fact that they are building “affordable” housing. But exactly what is it and who can afford it?

"Affordable Housing" covers everything from "Help to Buy" (a one off gift) to building "Social rented" and "Supported Living Units". The Conservative administration has generalised the term “Affordable" to disguise their lack of Social Housing provision.

A quick bit of research shows that, for example, the average wage of someone working in the Thames Valley Police (a key worker) is £23,000 per year. Most young people can only afford to rent, if you look at what is available, the cheapest one bedroom flat in Maidenhead is £795/month, and in Windsor £875/month over 50% of a key worker salary.

If you aspire to own your own home, a quick search for property in the area shows 1 bed flats in Maidenhead for £107,500 and £200,000 in Dedworth, Windsor. Typically a mortgage lender will give you three and a half times your salary for a mortgage, which in this case would be £80,587, but you still need a sizeable deposit.

Now imagine if you have a family and need more than one bedroom. Not everyone has a partner, let alone a joint income.

There clearly needs to be a shift in how housing is viewed, and provision of TRULY affordable housing, so that local people have the choice to stay in their community.

The council's Affordable Housing Capital spend since 2011 totals £4.2M. None of it was spent on providing new social or affordable rented accommodation. "Low cost housing" spend since 2008 was £4.7M, these funds went to local housing associations to provide the discount to enable tenants to buy their own social house, effectively reducing the social housing stock.

In the run up to the local elections, the current administration has promised that 30% of new homes built on council land in the Royal Borough would be "affordable", in the most general sense of the word.

Unless we change fundamentally how housing is viewed, we run a real risk of local people leaving because they simply cannot afford to settle here. As more younger people leave, we could see elderly people struggling without the support of their families effectively increasing the pressure on social care in the Borough.

The answer lies beyond bland promises of “affordable housing”, to thinking about what “affordable housing” might look like and how we can deliver it. Building more of the same will get the same results; high prices beyond the reach of most. Land prices are high in the Royal Borough, but we need to be exploring alternative construction methods to keep costs lower—and therefore hopefully lower the buying price. For example, encouraging accessing the Rural Exception Site policy for rural communities, the use of modular design techniques, alternative housing provision such as floating homes on disused gravel lakes and use of eco-friendly materials can lower costs and therefore the price.

Not everyone can afford to pay rent and save for a deposit, so, rather than providing a one-off gift, via the 'Help to Buy' scheme, we would seek to establish a 'Rent to Save' scheme which would continue in perpetuity.

Housing needs have to be addressed and The Borough First have opened the debate within our policies. We recognise that the current and future needs of local residents are not being met and we want to encourage sustainable and community led housing developments and support those who are homeless or at risk of being made homeless. The answer lies in working with residents to do something different—and that we will as everybody deserves a place to call home.

Helen Taylor is a Maidenhead resident and a tBf candidate for Oldfield ward.

Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS

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