Developers are being encouraged to build more “smaller homes” in West Berkshire.

West Berkshire Council expects demand for one and two-bedroom properties to increase significantly over the next 15 years, as first-time buyers search for affordable properties and more elderly people look to downsize.

According to a council report, number of people over 85 in West Berkshire is expected to rise from 3,846 to 7,804 by 2036.

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

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Cllr Hilary Cole, executive member for housing, said: “We do work with developers and try to encourage them to build smaller homes.

“But actually, with market forces, if developers identify a need for larger homes then that’s what they will be delivering.”

The Conservative-run council says it is already encouraging some elderly people to downsize, if they are living alone large houses that could accommodate families.

“We are not a draconian state where we can force people to downsize, we can only encourage,” said Cllr Cole.

Cllr Carolyne Culver (Green Party) said: “One thing we could do to try and tackle the issue of under occupancy in larger houses is to provide more smaller homes for people to move into.

“We’ve had a number of large planning applications where we haven’t met our target for one and two-bedroom private homes.

“Unless we build those sort of houses, it’s going to be very difficult for people to downsize.

“Young people who can’t afford a larger house also need the option of smaller homes.”

She also said the council is “still not building enough affordable homes” and asked why it is not building homes it can rent out at a lower price.

“They would quickly pay themselves off in terms of rental income, so we would be able to make money of them in the future, and they would provide much-needed accommodation for people,” she said.

Cllr Cole said the council exploring plans to build its own housing company that would “give us the ability to deliver affordable homes”.

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In the 1980s, the council sold all of the homes it owned to a housing association.

The councillors’ comments came at a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s Executive on Thursday, March 25.

At that meeting, the council’s Housing Strategy and Delivery Plan for 2020 – 2036 was approved.

The plan aims to “enable every resident to have access to a home that meets their needs” and reduce homelessness.