Wokingham Borough Council continues to show its commitment to regenerating Gorse Ride with changes to how the project will be funded set to be considered by the council’s decision-making executive this week (17 February) with a recommendation for council to approve at its meeting on 24 March.
The Gorse Ride regeneration project will replace 178 existing dated properties, with 249 new, energy efficient homes of which 136 will be social rented homes, 49 shared ownership and 64 private sale homes. This equates to 51 more affordable housing properties than currently provided on the development. At the start of the project there were 41 privately owned properties.
Over the past 5 years, the council has delivered just under 1,700 affordable homes in the borough primarily through its Registered Provider partnership. A further 300 affordable homes are expected to be delivered in 2022 and 2023.
“Issues like Covid-19 and surging fuel bills are having a big impact on many of our residents.” said Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for housing and finance. “We’re continuing to see an increase in the number of local people struggling with making ends meet or, in some cases, at risk of homelessness. That’s why projects like the Gorse Ride Regeneration are so important and something we are committed to making happen. We want to make sure we have the affordable homes we need in the right locations, allowing those who wish to stay in the community to remain as well as welcoming new residents to the area.
“The regeneration also helps us deliver a much wider range of properties, helping accommodate everything from families to those with additional needs. It also helps us make sure that the properties are designed to adapt to modern lives as well as offering more energy efficient homes meaning residents will need to spend less on fuel when they do move in.”
The report recommends that council makes a final decision for the project to be funded and retained through the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), the vehicle through which all council owned social housing stock is managed, at its meeting on 24 March.
This would help give greater flexibility to draw down financing as needed as well as reducing the need to rely on external grants and allowing access to wider pots of funding such as right to buy receipts and S106 commuted sums to counter the impact the rising cost of materials has had on the project and ensure it can be delivered in full.
Cllr Kaiser continued: “In reality this decision makes no difference to those living or moving into the new homes in Gorse Ride and this is purely a back of house decision on how we fund the works. We’re still delivering the same fantastic homes as before and will continue to work closely with the community throughout this process.
“Whilst national issues around the cost and availability of materials, along with the impact of Covid-19, are beginning to settle down, we want to make sure we have increased flexibility to access the funding we need for the regeneration, as well as benefitting from the increased market value of the private homes being built on site and the wider developer funding we have to use for affordable schemes just like this.”
Since gaining planning consent in December 2020 the project has continued to progress with the majority of residents affected by the first phase already rehoused, with many moving into Arnett Avenue the first phase of the Gorse Ride Regeneration which completed last summer. Work is also well underway to clear and prepare parts of the site ready for main construction this summer.
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