Housing chiefs assess the challenges in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 19 Jul 2011 at 9:15 pm

Council leader Bill Randall took a tour of almost a dozen key housing sites in Brighton and Hove yesterday (Monday 18 July).

He was joined by senior officials from some of the biggest housing associations operating in the area.

Councillor Randall saw a mixture of recently completed projects and sites where housing bosses hope to make significant progress in the near future.

The Green Party leader of Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We need housing associations to build in the city.”

He accepted that not everyone on the housing register liked housing associations – also known as registered providers.

But he said that they were essential if the Greens were to meet their manifesto commitment to build at least 1,000 affordable homes over the next four years.

More importantly, he said, housing associations were vital to enable enough building to take place to start tackling the shortage of public housing in Brighton and Hove.

Some of the council’s housing staff were on the tour along with the cabinet member for housing Councillor Liz Wakefield and Councillor Christina Summers, who serves on the housing management consultative committee.

Ideas

The tour gave councillors, officials and the housing association executives a chance to compare ideas for tackling the challenges in Brighton and Hove.

Councillor Randall said: “Homelessness has risen 15 per cent since the start of the year.

“The were 42 rough sleepers in the latest rough sleepers count – I still don’t think that’s a real reflection of the numbers.

“There are 11,000 names on the council waiting list and there are families living in flats that aren’t big enough for them.

“Rents are high and many people can’t afford to buy.

“The council is an enabling authority and we need to look at the whole picture.”

He said that that included homes provided by not just the council and housing associations.

He pointed to letting agents, private landlords, the market among people buying their own home and even housing co-ops.

Difficult

Councillor Randall said: “It’s going to be incredibly difficult because of funding.”

The coalition government has previously said that it would cut the budget for social housing.

Last week the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which funds public housing projects, did, however, announce the successful bidders for funding worth £1.8 billion.

All five of the housing associations behind the projects visited on yesterday’s tour were among the successful bidders: Affinity Sutton, the Guinness Trust, Hyde, Moat and Southern.

The successful bidders will spend almost half of the £4.5 billion that the HCA has budgeted from 2011-15 for its Affordable Homes Programme.

It published four maps alongside its Affordable Homes Programme spending announcement to show where need was greatest.

Brighton and Hove was in the category showing most need when it came to “households in temporary accommodation per 1,000 households” and the number of “housing benefit recipients per 1,000 households”.

It was in the second most needy category in the “indices of deprivation” and the “ratio of lower quartile house price to lower quartile earnings” or affordability category.

Successful

Among the sites visited or discussed yesterday were successful completed projects costing more than £10 million and sites worth more than another £10 million where development looks to be imminent. They included the following.

Coastal Place includes ten rented homes managed by Affinity Sutton and 18 one-bedroom flats in shared ownership on the old Nuffield Hospital site in New Church Road, Hove. Six of the rented flats are wheelchair accessible. The project, which includes 70 flats in total, was completed three years ago.

Beach House was built on the old Westbourne Hospital site in Westbourne Villas on the corner of New Church Road, Hove. The Affinity Sutton scheme was completed just over 18 months ago and includes 25 shared ownership flats and 24 supported housing units.

Park House in Old Shoreham Road, Hove, was bought by Hyde from Bellerby’s College three years ago. A planning application is expected to be submitted to the council next month for about 70 flats, of which 29 will be classed as “affordable”.

One Brighton is part of the scheme to revive the New England Quarter behind Brighton Railway Station. The eco development was completed last November and includes 172 homes of which 29 are rented by Moat and 25 are in shared ownership.

Block J is the last site for development in the New England Quarter and is expected to include a hotel and offices as well as 147 flats, of which 53 will be classed as “affordable”. Hyde included the project in its funding bid to the HCA. It hopes to start work, subject to planning permission, early next year and complete building in the autumn of 2014.

The Ebenezer Chapel community room and apartments in Richmond Parade, Brighton, was completed last August. The Hyde scheme includes 25 shared ownership flats, 23 flats for social rent and a flat for the church warden. The focal point of the project was a new Reformed Baptist chapel on the site of an increasingly rundown 1960s chapel.

Brighton General Hospital Nurses Home in Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton, was bought by Southern in May 2008. The old nurses home has recently been demolished for health and safety reasons. Southern hopes to build 40 homes for rent and 55 for shared ownership, including ten wheelchair accessible homes, by October 2013.

Freshfields in Freshfield Road, Brighton, is across the road from the old nurses home at the General. The Guinness Trust has 22 units on the site which was completed in June 2008. One of those is a four-bedroom wheelchair accessible home and another is a one-bedroom flat adapted for people with spinal injuries. The charity Aspire uses the flat to help rehabilitate people discharged from specialist spinal units.

1 Manor Road in Brighton is the site of St Benedict’s Convent where the Guiness Trust hopes to build 46 houses and flats. At least 18 of the homes are expected to be classed as “affordable”. Several of those will be adapted for disabled use, including two wheelchair accessible three-bedroom houses. Guinness is liaising with the council’s conservation team to work out how to keep two Edwardian buildings which architectural merit. Consultation is taking place with the community about the scheme and a planning application is expected to follow.

The proposed schemes visited on the tour yesterday will provide 195 “affordable” homes if they are all completed as planned.

This amounts to almost a fifth of the ambitious target adopted by the Greens in their election manifesto.

Other schemes are in the pipeline, including the council’s own project to build 12 flats and three houses on the site of Ainsworth House in Wellington Road, Brighton.

One of those on the tour yesterday said that while the financial environment was tough, the big hurdle was winning planning permission.

The visits to the completed schemes showed that planning permission can be achieved and that it is possible to build affordable and sustainable homes in Brighton and Hove.

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