Affordable housing in Reading could become more affordable than ever, with a new rent cap of 70 per cent planned.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has begun a six-week public consultation on a new affordable housing strategy which aims to benefit those in need of homes.

The affordable housing planning document aims to strike the right balance between maximising the amount of genuinely affordable homes built for local people and ensuring rents are set at a genuinely affordable level.

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The document proposes thatm where affordable housing is to be delivered on site, 62 per cent is rented and 38 per cent is for affordable home ownership.

But the major change is that affordable housing would be capped at 70 per cent of market rates, compared to the current cap of 80 per cent.

Council fficer Mark Warringham said this would “make sure many more genuinely affordable rented properties are secured”.

There is currently a need for around 406 affordable homes to be built every year in Reading, with three-bed plus properties most needed.

RBC requires that housing developments with ten or more homes should include a 30 per cent affordable on-site housing contribution – a ten-flat development would include three affordable homes.

However, this can be reduced, or the contribution can be made off-site, if it is not deemed viable.

The council also requires some form of affordable housing contribution from all housing developments, no matter the size.

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But plans to increase the amount of affordable homes built in Reading could be scuppered by government proposals to temporarily remove the need for affordable housing contributions from projects of 40 homes or less.

Councillor Tony Page, RBC’s lead member for Planning, said this would reduce the amount of affordable housing to almost zero as most developments in Reading are for less than 40 homes.

Speaking at the council’s Policy committee, he said: “This whole document is predicated on us having any affordable housing resources to deploy.

“If the short-term changes go through, these documents will need to be revisited. We are planning very much on the existing arrangements.”

The draft document, which will replace a 2013 version and was approved at Policy committee on September 28, has now published for a six-week consultation and can be viewed here.

Once the final version is published, it will be used to help decide planning applications.

Councillor John Ennis, lead member for Housing, explained why the council could not go even further than the 70 per cent cap.

He said: “We can put what we like, but if we can’t convince developers then it’s not worth the paper it is written on.

“Many developers don’t like affordable housing because it cuts into their profits. By pushing for the 70 per cent cap, which would be the max – not the level we go for – I think we will achieve many of the numbers we are looking for.

“People say ‘is that affordable?’ Well, yes, if you look at the figures it is much more affordable.

“We have to look at what’s realistic and I think the 70 per cent cap – the Reading Affordable Rent – is really positive.”