WINCHESTER could be about to see a rise in the number of affordable houses to meet overwhelming demand.

City council officials met to discuss new recommendations for a council-owned housing company to be set up specifically to develop new houses for rent and possibly sale.

Other suggestions included the possibility of entering into a joint venture with private sector developers and the option of sale and leaseback. This would result in council-owned land being sold and leased back to a developer or institutional investor.

Case officer, Andrew Palmer, said: “We have been reasonably successful in providing affordable housing over the last few years. However the national landscape for such housing has changed significantly over the last three years. We have a large number of sites coming up in the district over the next 10 years and it's prudent that we provide more affordable housing.

“We may not have the ability to develop these sites in the future. The Government has been very reluctant to increase its debt cap. However we have had discussions with local enterprise partnerships who are keen to see these houses developed.”

Mr Palmer said the council would have to look into any “additional debt headroom” before committing to a strategy.

Cllr Stephen Godfrey: “I think this is a really important and exciting proposal that we must investigate.”

Mr Palmer added that other district councils were looking into similar schemes and suggested collaborations with them would help officers to shape the final proposal.

He said: “We are aware of several councils who have established companies like this so there are district authorities who have already set the precedent.”

Cllr Ian Tait, who spoke on behalf of local residents, said: “I fully endorse the recommendations of the paper and it's absolutely vital we look at extending our affordable housing. We have got 2,000 on the waiting list increasing by 100 people per month so whatever we can do to alleviate that is welcome.”

TACT chair, Judith Steventon Baker, said: “Chairman, you said earlier that Winchester is not a speedy council. Well get speedy: we need affordable housing.”