SMALLER homes will need to be built in West Berkshire over the next 16 years due to a significant increase in the number of elderly people.

That’s according to the draft ‘West Berkshire Housing Strategy 2020 – 2036’, which says the district has a “relatively young population” but this will “change significantly”.

The number of people over 85 is expected to double in size over the next 16 years, from 3,846 to 7,804.

While the number of over 70s is projected to increase by 46.9 per cent, from 22,748 to 33,418.

The housing strategy, published by West Berkshire Council, states: “Given the projected demographic change, and the increase in population of those aged over 70, it is likely that the need for smaller homes will strengthen.

READ MORE: Plans for 401 homes near Newbury up for discussion

“This is also likely to increase the need for a range of specialist housing solutions to meet the needs of the ageing population.”

It also says these homes “should be designed with double bedrooms wherever possible”.

The council’s draft housing strategy aims to ensure that every person in West Berkshire can “have access to a home that meets their needs” and looks to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.

The strategy says that between 525 and 600 homes must be built in West Berkshire to meet rising demand.

It promises to set up council-owned housing company that will buy private rented accommodation and offer it to renters at “affordable” rates.

There are also plans to crackdown on poor conditions in rented properties, “maximise the delivery of affordable homes” and offer key workers “priority” when it comes to social housing.

'Affordability is a critical issue'

The strategy states: “Affordability is a critical issue in all segments of the housing market, with people struggling to secure affordable and sustainable housing.”

In West Berkshire, the average cost of a home is £346,500 – that’s almost 17 times higher than the annual salary in the district.

According to the strategy, the average rent in West Berkshire has risen by 20 per cent in recent years and renters “pay the highest housing costs compared with home-owners with mortgages and social housing tenants”.

It says “affordability challenges facing many private renters will remain” unless there is a “significant” increase in the number of rented properties being built.

The average monthly rent for a home in West Berkshire is £1,050 and this can mean that key workers “struggle to secure suitable accommodation local to their workplace”.

READ MORE: No plans for Covid marshals

There were also 1,765 households threatened with homelessness in West Berkshire in 2018/19 and almost a quarter of them (23 per cent) had lost their tenancy at a private rented property.

People can have their say on the council’s draft housing strategy during a six-week public consultation, which ends on November 1.

Cllr Hilary Cole, executive member for housing, said: “We are particularly keen to hear from young people and key workers so we can ensure their housing aspirations are captured within the strategy.

“The draft strategy details how we aim to provide a positive impact for an ageing population, plus opportunities for affordable housing for residents with disabilities and young people.

“We also want to provide housing solutions for the reduction of homelessness and for those requiring specialist accommodation.”