Proposed Key Worker Housing the Latest Initiative to Tackle Housing Crisis in Reading

Arthur Hill Regeneration

A PLANNING application to build vital key worker homes on the site of the former Arthur Hill swimming pool has been submitted and is set to be considered in the autumn.

Nurses, social workers, teachers and police officers would all be eligible to rent out the new Council-owned flats at 80% of market rental rates. If approved, site works would begin in the autumn with construction of the 12 one-bed flats and three two-bed flats starting in the new year.

The locally listed frontage of the building is retained under the plans, which also meet the international energy performance homes standard (Passivhaus) for levels of sustainability and low carbon as the Council drives towards it net-zero carbon target by 2030.

Housing waiting lists remain extremely high in towns and cities across the country and particularly in the south east. Despite a range of local initiatives, around 3,400 people remain on the housing waiting list in Reading at this time.  The creation of 15 affordable new homes in east Reading for key workers is just one of the ways Reading Borough Council is continuing to tackle the national affordable housing crisis locally.

Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock said: “It was in September last year that the Council committed to building affordable key worker homes at the former Arthur Hill site and over the past few months we have all seen first-hand the huge contribution that key workers make to society, both nationally and here in Reading.

“Nurses, social workers, teachers and police officers are among the heroes of the Covid 19 response. Public workers play a vital role, but extortionate rental prices have a major knock on effect for recruitment for schools, hospitals, the police force and the Council. I’m therefore delighted to see this application progress to the point where it can now be considered in the autumn.

“The application also meets the highest environmental standards for new homes in recognition of the fact we are fully committed to creating a net-zero carbon Reading in less than a decade.”

The last month has seen a variety of future temporary and affordable housing schemes approved to help contribute to tackling the housing crisis in Reading.

At Policy Committee last month the Council approved a £2 million investment in 40 modular temporary accommodation units at Cattle Market in Great Knollys Street to rehouse rough sleepers accommodated in B&B accommodation during the Covid pandemic. The new Cattle Market ‘pods’ are expected to begin arriving in November with the first people accommodated early next year. Details of the innovative scheme can be found at  https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s13455/Modular%20Home%20Development.pdf

The same Policy Committee meeting saw the Council approve 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. The full Policy Committee report is at  https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s13490/Southcote%20Library.pdf

And just last week, the Planning Applications Committee approved the creation of 46 social rent affordable homes by the Council in Wensley Road, Coley. The application was designed following community consultation and includes modern and updated play facilities, improved parking, upgraded bin areas and enhanced landscaping. Again the development meets Passivhaus standards in terms of high sustainability and low carbon homes. The full approved planning application can be found at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s13527/MINSTER%20-%20200122%20-%20Wensley%20Road.pdf

Speaking on the ongoing need to create more affordable homes in Reading, Councillor Brock added:

“As a Council we have made tremendous strides in recent years tackling what is a national housing crisis. The tireless work of our Homeless Prevention Service, developing relationships with private landlords through our Rent Guarantee Scheme, new temporary housing in Lowfield Road and the construction of new Council homes in Conwy Close have all made a huge difference.

“Back in 2017, this Council had more than 130 families in shared B&B accommodation, which fell to zero in just 18 months thanks to our efforts. There are still 3,400 in the housing waiting list in Reading, however, and the economic impact of the pandemic means we may well see that number increase in the months to come.

“The last few weeks have seen a variety of future housing schemes approved, from the new homeless pods at Cattle Market, to new affordable housing being created in Southcote and new Council housing in Coley. It is essential we continue to look every opportunity available to create even more affordable housing in our town at this critical time.”

Ends

Notes To Editor:

The planning application number for key worker flats on the site of the former Arthur Hill swimming pool is 201135 and can be found on the Council’s planning portal at http://planning.reading.gov.uk/

or view direct at http://planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=201135&ApplicationNumber=201135&AddressPrefix=&Postcode=&Submit=Search

Reading Borough Council remains fully committed to providing a modern new community swimming pool for east Reading in Palmer Park, to replace the old Arthur Hill pool. The new Palmer Park pool forms one part of a significant investment package by the Council is modern leisure facilities for Reading.

The former Southcote Library building became vacant in 2018 when Southcote Community Centre was expanded and transformed in a £550,000 project where it became home to a number of local organisations, Southcote Library and a Children’s Centre run by Brighter Futures for Children.

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957