New Key Worker Housing Approved as Council Continues to Tackle Reading’s Housing Crisis

  • 15 flats for key workers like nurses, teachers, social workers and police officers, approved last night
  • Council continues to tackle the housing crisis head-on with new homes at affordable rents across Reading

ESSENTIAL key worker homes for Reading were approved on the site of the former Arthur Hill swimming pool at a planning committee meeting last night, as the Council continues to focus on tackling the affordable housing crisis in the town.

Nurses, social workers, teachers and police officers are among the vital public sectors workers who would be eligible to rent out the new Council-owned flats, which will be made available at 80% of market rental rates.

Work on the 13 one-bed and 2 two-bed flats is expected to start shortly, with the new homes completed and set to be available for rent by Autumn 2022. The locally listed frontage of the former swimming pool building is retained under the approved plans. The 15 homes have also been designed to Passivhaus principles for levels of sustainability and low carbon, as the Council drives towards it net-zero carbon target by 2030.

The planning application approved by members of the Council’s Planning Application Committee last night (Jan 13th) can be found at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s15478/PAR%20-%20201135-%20Arthur%20Hill.pdf

Reading Borough Council Leader, Councillor Jason Brock, said:

“Key workers such as social workers, nurses, teachers and police officers are among the heroes of the ongoing Covid 19 response. Extortionate rental prices across the south east, including in Reading, mean many struggle to afford to live here. Those high rents levels also have a major knock on effect for recruitment in schools, hospitals, the police force and councils – public services which have never been more essential.

“I am delighted Reading Borough Council is now in a position to begin building these 15 key worker homes, which will be constructed to the highest environmental standards and will be available for rent by Autumn next year.”

Housing waiting lists remain extremely high in towns and cities across the country, and particularly across the south east. In Reading, 3,874 households were on the housing waiting list as of this week. This is despite a range of Council initiatives to tackle the housing crisis, which span a number of years. These include:

  • 57 new Council homes constructed in Conwy Close
  • 28 modular temporary housing units at Lowfield Road, Caversham, in 2017, followed by a £2 million investment in 40 more units at Cattle Market to rehouse rough sleepers previously accommodated in B&B accommodation, due for delivery this spring / early summer (2021)
  • The sale of the vacant former Southcote Library site to a housing association partner, alongside an investment of £785,000 from the Local Authority Social Housing Grant, to support the delivery of 15 new affordable homes with rent levels capped at 70% of market rate.
  • 46 social rent affordable Council homes in Wensley Road, Coley, with construction due to begin this spring (2021)
  • 18 new Council homes at the Norcot Youth and Community site – construction commenced
  • 41 new Council homes in North Street – contractor appointed
  • 4 new Council homes on George Street – construction commenced

The Council has also explored various other opportunities to increase affordable housing provision in Reading including: acquiring 36 ex right to buy properties by using right to buy receipts; progressing the conversion of nine redundant areas within flatted blocks into flats; and progressing 24 new homes on ex garage sites and small parcels of land on Council owned housing land.

In addition, at a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Policy Committee next week (Monday Jan 18th), Councillors are set to approve the transfer of four more vacant sites into its Housing Revenue Account (HRA) so that they can be considered for the future development of more new affordable Council housing.

These sites include the vacant Central Pool site on Battle Street, which is earmarked for 74 Council flats made up of both sheltered housing and general accommodation. There would also be provision for Older Persons Day Opportunities, mental health supported units and six family sized Council homes on the site. A Hexham Road site is earmarked for 36 new sheltered housing flats alongside the provision of services for vulnerable adults with a profound and multiple learning disability  The remaining two sites to be transferred to the Council’s HRA are at Amethyst Lane, and Dwyer Road. The Policy Committee report can be found at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s15544/HRA-Appropriation-Land.pdf

Councillor Brock added:

“North, south, east and west across the borough, this Council is doing everything in its power to tackle the housing crisis in Reading head on. We have taken a strategic look across our buildings to identify opportunities to expand provision of desperately needed affordable homes for people.

“The development of our Community Hubs, and the forthcoming provision of improved and modern new facilities for residents, has freed up opportunities to build new homes offered at affordable rents below the market rate, whether for key workers, those with specialist support needs or, indeed, the general public.

“This Council also continues to invest heavily in breaking the cycle of rough sleeping. More than 260 unique individuals in Reading were placed in local B&B and hotel accommodation in the first phase of the pandemic. Local capacity was only available thanks to the Council driving down the number of families in B&B accommodation from 130 families in 2017 to zero just 18 months later. We are now following this up with 40 temporary homes, with on-site 24 hour support, to provide move-on accommodation at the Cattle Market for people who were previously rough sleeping and accommodated in B&Bs.  These initiatives come at a time of extreme financial challenges for local authorities in the face of the pandemic, but our prudent budgetary management allows us to continue to invest in the social and economic vitality of our town for the benefit of all residents.”

Oscar Mortali

For media enquiries about this release email oscar.mortali@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 2301