Two schemes costing about £14 million to build 56 council flats on two sites in Brighton have been agreed.
A six-storey block of 27 flats will be built on the site of Brighton and Hove City Council’s old Moulsecoomb housing office, in Selsfield Drive, which closed two years ago.
And two blocks – three and four storeys high – will include 29 flats on the Wellsbourne site in Whitehawk Road, Whitehawk.
The site was previously used for the EB4U regeneration organisation’s offices and, before that, formed part of the premises of the old Whitehawk Infant School.
Three of the Selsfield Drive flats and three of those in Whitehawk Road will be wheelchair accessible.
The three blocks – approved by the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee this evening (Wednesday 2 March) – will include a mix of one, two and three-bedroom flats.
Councillor Mary Mears expressed concern about the high cost of the projects and the effect that this would have on the rents charged to tenants.
She said: “The costs are way out of reach of most people on a low income.”
Councillor David Gibson said: “Rents will be double or more than double existing council rents.
“None of these are affordable as defined by housing professionals. No one else is going to try to provide truly affordable housing for people in this city.”
He said that the council should try.
The Greens put forward amendments aimed at lowering the proposed rent levels with a view to funding the schemes over 60 years rather than 40 years.
Councillor Joe Miller said that councillors would be “kicking the can down the road” if they backed the proposal.
“It would be irresponsible of us,” he said, inflicting a housing crisis on a future generation. And he added: “It’s money that could be spent on building other homes.
“We should have more affordable rents but the way to do that should be lowering build costs.”
Councillor Alex Phillips said: “If we genuinely want to provide affordable houses and offer that to everyone including the poorest in our city then we have to start looking at what’s on the table now.”
But Councillor Peter Atkinson said: “We’ve just got to move on with this now.”
He said that councillors could look at other options for future projects.
Councillor Anne Meadows, who chairs the Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “We recognise that there is a huge problem in this city.
“We can disagree about the definition of ‘affordable’ but we are making these homes available at less than 80 per cent of market rents and those tenants will be out of fuel poverty which will help their household incomes.”
The committee backed the plans. Work is expected to start in Whitehawk in September – subject to planning permission – with a view to completion in September next year.
In Selsfield Drive work is scheduled to start in October – also subject to planning permission – and to be completed in October next year.