Wokingham Borough’s housing policy aims to ‘provide good quality local accommodation (wherever possible for those with a local connection to Wokingham Borough).’ Note the get-out wording ‘wherever possible…’.
Its latest PR brochure ‘Homes for the Future’ says its Local Plan will ‘make sure young people such as your children and grandchildren can find a home in the local area.’
This all sounds very worthy and admirable, but what is the reality on the ground?
Typically the development sites around Shinfield – ‘Croft Gardens’, ‘Heritage Park’, ’Shinfield Meadows’ and ‘Littlebrook’, combined offer about 1835 new dwellings with private developers providing just 127 affordable units. Whoever the other 1700 plus dwellings were for, they surely weren’t starter homes for local residents’ children and grandchildren. And did the few affordable properties at least go to people from the borough? Many councils in the South of England, such as West Oxford, South Bucks, and East Devon/Exeter, ensure that affordable homes go to local people. There’s no mechanism for making that happen here.
It’s true the Council’s wholly owned subsidiary Wokingham Housing Limited has in recent years built around 100 social housing units a year (some of them for vulnerable sections of the population) but such limited numbers, though better than nothing, don’t even go very far to meet demand for social housing in the borough, currently estimated at about 2,000 households.
Yes, the Council should take some credit for taking steps towards providing more social housing for the most needy in our community but that has little or nothing to do with the ‘Homes for the Future’ agenda the Council are trying to foist upon us. The reality is that the onslaught of house-building (not social housing) presided over by WBC isn’t about meeting the needs of local people and their families for affordable homes.