Housing Strategy 2021-26: Building a Borough of Opportunity and Innovation
Cabinet considered the report regarding the adoption of the Housing Strategy 2021-2026.
The Lead Member for Housing, Communications and Youth Engagement informed Cabinet that the draft new Housing Strategy had been approved by Cabinet to go out to consultation. There had been 150 responses and good input from the Access and Inclusion Forum. There were also stakeholder workshops with members and key partners. The strategy being presented today picked up on key points gained by the consultation and contained detailed action plans.
The Lead Member informed that in RBWM our residents faced particularly acute housing costs. The average house price in RBWM is approximately £476,000, which was over 15 times higher than the average UK salary (£30,420). The strategy had been developed around three key objectives; Deliver New Homes; Promote Health & Wellbeing; Support Vulnerable Residents to Obtain and Sustain Appropriate Accommodation. The need for more affordable accommodation had been highlighted over the last 12 months during the pandemic with residents not being able to afford to rent or buy properties.
Cabinet were informed that there would be a change to the recommendation in the report; if approved it would be recommending that the strategy goes to Council for adoption.
The Lead Member for Climate Change, Sustainability, Parks and Countryside said that this was a terrific paper and thanked the Lead Member and officers for their work and this was reiterated by Cllr Clark who also thanked the Lead Member for all the work done supporting the homeless.
Mr Hill addressed Cabinet and also commended the Lead Member on the report. He said that the Borough Local Plan references an affordable housing SPD and asked if this was to be produced. He also mentioned that the report said there would be work with the Government on John West House but what support was envisaged and what had happened to the £2 million flexible homelessness support grant. He also asked why the number of disabled facilities grants plummeting year on year, had the budget been reduced or was it harder to get a grant. Mr Hill also made reference to the impact of air pollution and having proposed developments surrounded by roads. He questioned the plan to build on the golf club grounds that were the town’s green lungs especially as the Lead Member for Planning had said he had already been informed of some alternative housing sites, Mr Hill asked if these sites would be made public. The BLP says that there should be 434 new affordable homes each year from 2013, that’s around 3000 that should have been provided. There was no reference to this in the RBWM Property Companies targets and the Magnet site did not have mixed tenure. The Leader had said that RBWM schemes would deliver 30% affordable housing yet the Nicholson’s Centre had none. Policies were cheap unless acted upon.
In response Cabinet were informed that it was not appropriate to comment on live planning applications. With regards to John West House the council were seeking addition funding to improve the facilities and increase capacity. There had been a Sharp decrease in the disability grant due to the impact of the pandemic, also work was costing more so less could be done. The name of the flexible homelessness grant has changed over the years but is still being used.
Cllr W Da Costa welcomed the scope of the report and what it was trying to achieve. There should be reference to the Climate Change Strategy and providing carbon neutral homes. He was informed that page 8 of the strategy talks about climate change, being net zero by 2050 and linking the report to the Climate Strategy rather then copying it into this report.
Cllr Singh made reference to the development on St Clouds way and a live petition. He was concerned that the application had received some objection from the Housing Team and that how could we expect developers to adhere to targets when RBWM do not on their own developments. He was informed that it was not the job of Cabinet to speak for the Planning Authority.
Resolved unanimously: that Cabinet notes the report and:
i)Delegates authority to the Head of Service in consultation with the Lead Member for Housing, Communications and Youth Engagement, to publish the Housing Strategy 2021-2026 and recommends it to Council for adoption.