Plans to improve Reading's private housing sector by providing further support for tenants, house owners, landlords and local communities, will be considered by the Council's Cabinet on 12 March.
The proposals include:
" Increasing the number of decent homes by targeting grant aid to improve the maintenance of privately-owned dwellings and encourage owners of empty houses to bring them back into use.
" Carrying out a study to see if new licensing arrangements could protect tenants of privately-rented homes by ensuring better maintenance and management of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
" Introducing new planning powers to control changes of use of dwelling houses to small HMOs in specific parts of the town in order to ensure that the character of existing communities can be protected.
The Council's housing strategy contains a commitment to improving the quality of accommodation in the private sector for owner occupiers or tenants. It also recognises the impact that large volumes of HMOs and other privately-rented accommodation can have on a surrounding area. The strategy commits the Council to:
" Increasing the number of properties meeting the 'Decent Homes Standard' and supporting people to stay safe and comfortable in their homes.
" Improving and maintaining environmental quality of neighbourhoods and identifying areas for neighbourhood renewal.
" Ensuring strong neighbourhood management across all housing sectors.
Commenting on the proposals to be considered by Cabinet, Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods, Councillor Rachel Eden said: 'These plans represent a major step forward in improving the borough's private sector housing and bringing neighbourhoods together - a key priority of the Council's housing strategy and one of the main issues raised by residents in the 'Let's Talk' consultation process.
'The Cabinet has already committed the Council to work with tenants, landlords and others to increase the quality of private rented accommodation and these proposals help us do that. At the same time we need to ensure a level playing field for good landlords and protect tenants from those landlords who fail to maintain their properties in a reasonable standard, or unscrupulous letting agents who take advantage of people.
'This is a balanced approach to the issue, protecting the interests of tenants, owners and good landlords while improving the condition of private housing stock and tackling those landlords and letting agents whose practices fall below the expected standards.
'This is more important than ever at a time when housing pressure on Reading is increasing.'
UPDATE: below is a map of the area the Article 4 declaration will cover, not completely clear unfortunately: