Opinion – ways to fix the housing crisis are being ignored

Posted On 11 Nov 2017 at 9:40 am

By Phélim Mac Cafferty

One in 69 people in Brighton and Hove are homeless.

Our city is ranked 20th of UK council areas for homelessness, surpassing many London boroughs.

These are the alarming findings of a report from Shelter published this week.

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Life for people who have no place to call home is often very disturbing.

People sleeping rough are 150 times more likely to be fatally assaulted and three times more likely to die of hypothermia and pneumonia.

There can be no doubt that the toxic cocktail of welfare reforms, cuts to public services and a lack of affordable housing have exacerbated this crisis.

Against a backdrop of low wages and skyrocketing housing costs, Shelter has estimated that up to eight million people, particularly families, are just one pay cheque away from losing their home.

Unaffordability of private rented housing is the leading cause of homelessness.

So-called “affordable” housing is too often anything but. Developers aided by Conservative legislation hide behind “viability assessments” to protect their profit margins.

In 11 councils the use of these assessments contributed to 79 per cent fewer affordable homes.

Yet ways to fix the housing crisis are being ignored. The government continues to block councils from borrowing to build more affordable housing.

We still don’t have homes flogged under the failed “right to buy” replaced like for like.

Locally, one of the few things the Labour council said they would do is combat rough sleeping but progress is painfully slow.

A year after Green councillors successfully pressured the council to open up empty buildings for rough sleepers, there is no night shelter in sight.

We need immediate action on this, and better protection for those at risk – including adopting our proposal of no evictions for those faced with universal credit delays.

In the fifth richest country, there is no justification for slow progress on homelessness.

If, as Gandhi once wrote, society is measured by how it treats its weakest then the increasing numbers of people forced to spend winter nights in shop doorways is a sign of abject political failure.

Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Valerie Paynter Reply

    I think the time has come to get tough with people who buy land for redevelopment as luxury flats & houses. There simply is not enough land going spare in this city to misuse in this way. It’s got to stop.

    Better to have an empty lot or empty building than lose scarce land supply to totally unaffordable dwellings that only foreign speculators or decamping rich Londoners can buy.

    The City Plan needs a policy category that restricts development of specified sites to affordable rentals ONLY.

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      Trouble is that “affordable” means 80% of market ratesin the area and many people can’t even afford that.

    • rolivan Reply

      There is lots of space in the City to build on walk along Church Rd Hove and see the width of the Roads.Half of them could be blocked off at one end to make a continuous terrace.Take Third Avenue for example, there is a place to do a U turn just below Lloyds so even large vehicles can still gain entrance and exit.Norton Rd is another example as are most around there.I have put thos idea to tge Vouncil and to Andy Winter but was told they prefer to do large developments.Infill is the way forward.Try telling Julie Cattell that and all you get is it isn’t possible.I think thousands of homes could be added to the City without the need to introduce Utilities as they ate already there.

  2. Gerald Wiley Reply

    And how would Phelim resolve the funding problem – the same way that Jeremy would by (ever) increasing taxation on businesses and wage earners?

    It’s a real shame that most of the Labour and Green leaders have never had proper jobs working for real businesses and have just been supported by the state, and just assume they can just get money whenever they want.

    Perhaps we need to look at why there are so many homeless. The dictionary definition is “without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets”, but the term being used by Shelter is:

    – staying with friends or family
    – staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B
    – squatting (because you have no legal right to stay)
    – at risk of violence or abuse in your home
    – living in poor conditions that affect your health
    – living apart from your family because you don’t have a place to live together

    Should all these be really considered as “homeless” – or is Phelim (like Shelter) trying to make the situation appear worse?

    What is really needed to deal with the problems? I don’t think just building affordable homes is the solution – other than for socialist political ammunition, and that many other problems with society need to be addressed.

    In particular why is our city to attractive to the homeless?

    • rolivan Reply

      Because of the many so called not for profit Agencies that employ people on High Salaries and they have to be seen to be doing something.How many were ex Public Servants?

  3. hopper 1334 Reply

    What is the green priority as whilst they talk a good talk I see little evidence of any action. Be interesting to see what they say when presented with simple but cheap housing that can be provided at affordable prices. They’ll probably want zero carbon eco houses with public art and allotments along with wacky design that’ll drive up costs and … you guessed it … drive up the price. In terms of affordable housing set a realistic percentage eg 25% and then don’t compromise. It’ll get factored into land prices and developers will deliver it. The Council’s own policy (that Phelim led on when Greens were nominally in charge) says 40% by negotiation ie it implies that there is flexibility so they invite developers to challenge it.

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