The transfer of almost 500 Brighton and Hove council houses and flats to a not-for-profit company will be the subject of an emergency meeting on Friday (16 September).
Unusually, Brighton and Hove City Council has yet not published an agenda or report or explained why the special cabinet meeting has been called at such short notice.
But it is likely that the Green cabinet will be asked to sign off the transfer of 499 of the council’s 12,500 homes to unlock £30 million from Santander bank.
The deal was agreed in principal more than two years ago although the amount of money that it will raise has already fallen from £45 million.
The final agreement was due to have been signed off by the end of August. Further delays beyond an imminent deadline could put the deal – or the terms of the deal – at risk.
If the transfer is approved, as expected, the homes will be transferred to a not-for-profit company called Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes on a 135-year lease.
The company, also known as a “local development vehicle”, will then effectively put up the properties – many in a poor condition – as collateral to obtain money to pay for refurbishments.
The money will also help fund the refurbishment of council homes which are not transferred to Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes.
The company was set up with cross-party support under the Conservative administration which ran the council until the May elections.
The Greens pledged in their manifesto to work with Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes and other organisations to build at least 1,000 affordable homes in the area.
The council set up the company after council tenants voted overwhelmingly against the transfer of their homes to another organisation in a stock transfer ballot in 2007.
At the time the Labour Party ran both the city council and the government.
The Conservatives capitalised on tenant anger over the proposed transfer to win control of the council in the 2007 elections, including a traditionally safe Labour seat in Moulsecoomb. The seat has since been won back by Labour.
In proposing to transfer 499 properties, the need for a ballot is avoided.
Tenants are asked to vote if a local authority proposes to transfer 500 or more homes out of council ownership.
After the council set up Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes, the previous Labour government delayed the more modest proposed transfer.
And since the general election last year the Consevative and Liberal Democrat coalition has indicated that it will review the rules governing the transfer of council housing.
So the council is keen to act before a change in law or policy hampers its plans to improve the city’s housing stock as well as before it loses the confidence of the bank.
And most crucially it wants to be able to start work on modernising some of the worst flats and houses that are currently on its books.
Council leader Bill Randall is expected to be back from holiday in time for the meeting which is open to the public at Hove Town Hall on Friday at 3pm.
Councillor Randall has been in Greece where his itinerary was expected to include a trip to Delphi – although it is not known whether he was hoping to consult the Oracle.
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