THE Royal Borough needs to have its local plan adopted to build more affordable homes, says the council’s housing lead.

A couple of weeks ago, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) was told the council could not take part in an £8.6b government scheme to build more affordable homes as it is not a registered provider of social housing.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) revealed it has delivered 244 affordable homes in the past five years and 183 social homes over the last eight years.

Compared with other Berkshire authorities, this figure is lower than Reading, for example, which has delivered over 470 affordable homes since 2016, according to data on the government website, and will be delivering an extra 307 units in the next four years.

READ MORE: Windsor & Maidenhead cannot take part in affordable housing scheme

The LDRS spoke with Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con: Cox Green), cabinet member for housing, to understand why RBWM has delivered a low number of affordable units.

Cllr McWilliams put it down to RBWM not yet having an adopted borough local plan (BLP), which sets out the vision for future development in a borough, where it will bring forward sites that will deliver thousands of new homes, including thousands of affordable units.

Some of these sites, subject to planning consent, includes building more than 2,000 homes at the controversial Maidenhead golf course and 450 homes in West Windsor. Both of which could deliver between 30 to 40 per cent affordable homes respectively.

Maidenhead golf course

Maidenhead golf course

Cllr McWilliams said: “In terms of the direction of travel, those numbers [affordable homes] are starting to crank up particularly as the town centre and RBWM owned sites come forward for development because, unlike the privately-owned sites, we can deliver higher number levels of affordable housing.

“We have a lack of land that can deliver higher levels of affordable housing because we don’t have an adopted BLP, and so the predominant developments are in the town centre where viability is much more of a challenge.

“The best thing to do to drive up those numbers of affordable housing is to adopt a BLP and bring forward those sites that can deliver much higher levels of affordable housing, particularly in sites the council owns like the golf course because we can decide how much affordable housing we want on there and within the first five years of the BLP being delivered.”

RBWM approved a housing strategy in June 2021 where it sets out the council’s affordable housing objectives until 2026 and seeks to help young people get on the property ladder.

READ MORE: Windsor & Maidenhead council to help more young people get on property ladder

However, it was criticised by the opposition for not setting out targets on how many affordable units RBWM will deliver.

Cllr McWilliams said, in his view, RBWM should hit its target of 434 affordable homes a year as set out in the BLP when the major schemes come forward.

The average house price in the Royal Borough is approximately £476,000 – 15 times higher than the average UK salary of £30,000.

While this may shut off those wanting to get on the property ladder, questions have been raised if the affordable homes will even be affordable to those beginners.

Layout of Maidenhead golf course site where a builk of affordable homes will be built

Layout of Maidenhead golf course site where a builk of affordable homes will be built

Cllr McWilliams said: “I think the important thing whenever you’re bringing forward large numbers of affordable housing is for there to be a variety in the type of housing and tenure that you’re bringing as possible.

“Yes, you will need to deliver some private sale property, you will need to deliver some affordable, some social rent, but also shared ownership properties to enable people being in an area with high house prices to get their foot on to the ladder and start building up equity in property.”

In the strategic housing market assessment, the borough should deliver 45 per cent social rent, 35 per cent affordable rent, and 20 per cent shared ownership.

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According to Cllr McWilliams, over 1,000 people are on RBWM’s housing register and 250 people are in temporary homes adding to the demand and need to build more affordable homes.

To meet this need, the housing lead said delivering more starter homes or flatted accommodation with different affordable tenures will have to come forward.

He said: “The focus is very clearly there on delivering higher numbers of social and affordable rent because at the moment the figures are being played out in real-time and we clearly need that additional level of social and affordable rent.”