Brighton and Hove’s housing crisis comes under the spotlight

Posted On 11 Nov 2014 at 7:39 pm

A population boom, high property prices and limited space to build are creating a housing crisis in Brighton and Hove.

At a Housing Committee meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), members of Brighton and Hove City Council will discuss a looming crisis. They will also talk about the strategy that they hope will lessen the effects of the problems ahead.

A report to the committee said: “Pressures from an increasing population, high property prices, pockets of poor quality housing, limited opportunities for new development and the effects of welfare reform are impacting on many families, particularly the most vulnerable people living in the city.

“The city has one of the highest average house prices outside London, coming within the top ten local authorities, and high rents in the private rented sector, making rent unaffordable for many households.

the-vote-pic“It is estimated that an additional 18,038 affordable homes are needed by 2017. However, high land values are pushing up the cost of building, making it difficult to develop sound business cases that balance the need for affordable housing against the cost of development.

“Over the past few years we have seen an increase in the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need, placed in temporary accommodation and on our Joint Housing Register.

“Over the years we have made steady progress in improving the housing stock in the city but a third of the city’s housing stock still remains non-decent.

“However, the past few years have seen significant changes to the funding available to deliver our strategy which means we have to look at new ways of working to support local people.”

It is being proposed that the council does this through a new housing strategy for 2015 to replace the strategy that expires this year. The priorities include improving the supply and quality of housing.

The report to councillors said: “During the lifetime of the current strategy, we have been successful in:

  • Providing additional affordable housing across the city, including building the first new council homes in a generation and successfully bidding for funding for new extra care housing.
  • Improving the quality of homes both in the private and social sector, with our council homes brought up to 100 per cent decency.
  • Introducing additional licensing which is improving housing conditions for residents living in smaller houses of multiple occupation.
  • Becoming one of the best-performing councils in preventing homelessness, helping many households sustain their home or find alternative housing.
  • Enabling independent living through major and minor adaptations assessed and delivered across all tenures via the integrated housing adaptations team.
  • Bringing long-term empty private sector properties back into use.
  • Generating a capital receipt for the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) through leasing up to 499 homes for refurbishment and rent to households to whom we owe a housing duty to Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes.
  • Generating savings through procurement of long-term partnering arrangement with Mears for maintenance of council homes.

“This new strategy comes at a time where the council has to save £102 million over the period 2015-16 to 2019-20, around 30% of our net budget.”

The committee is also being asked to approve the building of just over 90 homes on four sites in Brighton. The vast majority if not all of the homes will be flats.

Two of the sites are in Whitehawk and two are small car parks – in Frederick Street, near Queen’s Road, and Ardingly Street, just off St James’s Street in Kemp Town.

Most of the flats will be built on the two Whitehawk sites – in place of the old library and next to City Academy Whitehawk, formerly Whitehawk Primary School.

More than half of the homes will be sold to fund the schemes rather than rented. This will disappoint some of those who want to see a return of council house building to tackle a waiting list of about 20,000.

Tight financial rules constrain the council which remains unusual in even contemplating projects like this.

If planning permission is granted at the first attempt, building work should start next year.

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