Brighton MP criticises use of ‘damp, dark and depressing’ accommodation for homeless people

Posted On 25 Mar 2015 at 8:51 am

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has called on the city council to stop using a “damp, dark and depressing” building to house homeless people.

Caroline Lucas at Windsor Court

Caroline Lucas at Windsor Court

Vulnerable people and families in need of emergency accommodation are frequently housed at Windsor Court in Windsor Street, a nineteenth century building owned and managed by Baron Homes.

Ms Lucas said it’s the building she has been contacted about the most, and while blaming the situation on Government policies such as the housing benefit cap, has urged Brighton and Hove City Council to either insist the landlord improve conditions or stop using it entirely.

Writing on her website, she said: “The experience for many of those housed at Windsor Court, is not a happy one.

Since being elected it’s the building I’ve been contacted about most and I’ve visited a number of my constituents there over the past few years.

“Each of the rooms I’ve seen has been damp, dark, and depressing. The inner courtyard reminds me of a prison with the metal staircases and floors that run off it.

“So why does Brighton and Hove City Council continue to house so many vulnerable people there? It’s a question I’ve asked many times.

“Sadly, the only answer seems to be because it’s all there is available.

“I’ve repeatedly urged the council to put pressure on the landlord to improve conditions, or to simply not renew the agreement at all.

“More recently I’ve been pressing the council to increase security at the block and address access issues, as I’ve been made aware of a number of worrying incidents that have occurred there.

“I’m pleased to hear that the interim head of housing at the council will be visiting Windsor Court in person this week to see for himself the types of problems I’ve been describing.

“And while I don’t believe Windsor Court is a suitable building to house many of the vulnerable residents living there, the real fault lies with the Government, and policies it has introduced which serve to exacerbate the housing crisis and make more households at risk of homelessness.”

In response, the council denied the court is in disrepair, but said it does suffer from condensation, which is a problem for residents.

A spokesman said: “The block is monitored by the emergency accommodation team and inspected on a regular basis. Any defects are noted and reported to Baron Homes, which owns and manages the building.

“The flats are used as short term/emergency housing, one step up from bed and breakfast, where households live until they can be moved to longer-term accommodation.

“They also have the advantage of being in the city centre, close to schools and other facilities.

“Because of the steep rise in homelessness in the past four years some residents have been living at Windsor Court for longer than we would have liked, but most for fewer than six months.

“We are constantly looking to provide a higher quality of accommodation for homeless households. However, the demand for housing generally far exceeds supply in the city and is likely to do so for some considerable time.

“Indeed, we have about 20,000 households on our waiting list, and this week only 47 council and housing association homes were available to let. Of these, only 12 were family sized homes.”

Baron Homes was approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.

Ms Lucas is calling for a raft of changes to housing law to improve conditions for tenants. To read her full Housing Charter, click here.

  1. Graham Atherton Reply

    Damp homes are bad for our health – a consensus is pretty clear now amongst medical practitioners. There is an ongoing unequal dispute between landlords and tenants whereby each blames the other and nothing is done – both sides need educating on this issue and both need to take responsibility. Landlords must provide workable solutions.

  2. jo Reply

    I completely agree that the housing conditions are below standard as i have lived there twice, both stays were for 9 month periods and through no fault of my own, but answer me this if you are saying not to house people in Windsor court where do you propose the vulnerable families will stay? improve the living conditions is the key! to close this facility will just increase the need for housing!

  3. Michelle Reply

    My sister n nephew live there have been for a year and it’s classed as temporary accommodation! my nephew is nearly 1 yrs old , since he’s been born he’s been ill with his breathing , his father had to call an ambulance he had stopped breathing for couple minutes due to being ill has an asthma pump now ,due to damp n mould around the place and mould actually growing up the sofa from the floor she’s forever cleaning and nothing works it always smells damp . Her relationship with babys dad had ended because of the situation ! The place is disgusting it doesn’t get monitored at all . Only see the caretaker once in a blue moon,! My sisters been to council with health visitors letters, doctors and the ambulance form and they still do nothing!

  4. jackie Rickard Reply

    I also know a member of my family who was placed here . It has huge gates in front of the building , to hide what a dark depressing place this is . I thought i had stepped back in time to the Victorian era .It is more in the Architect design of a prison camp and i was shocked to think that Brighton Housing would even consider this for accommodating Human beings . in this day and age . Brighton Council should be ashamed of themselves Inside one of these living box areas is dark depressing rooms , damp everyday , condensation at it worse .Thank God they refused to stay as my Grandughter felt at risk there .

  5. naira Reply

    I remember living here. I was somewhere between six or nine years old. I remember that I was terrified of heights, and wherever you were in this building, if you looked down, you could see the floor way below you through the grating. I remember that it was a single bedroom with a single bed, and me and my mother would both sleep in it. At night you could hear fights in the courtyard below, and there would be smashed glass more often than not. It was always dark. It felt like living in a cell. The sad thing was the chances of getting out seemed low, and I spent quite a while here. By the time we left I learned to call it home. No one should have to call that place home. Or be scared to come ‘home’ after school. There was an office in front of the building, and it honestly felt like walking into a trap. So many families are forced to live here, and we were told we were lucky…if this is lucky then I worry fro what the world is becoming.

  6. Sharon wheatley Reply

    Nothing ever changes in Brighton concearning housing needs. Forty yeas ago we were in a damp one bed flat with 5 flights of stairs. And third child on the way! No help whatsoever from the council. We were forced into doing a self build in newhaven, and a mortgage we could barely afford!! Disgusting way to treat people born and bread in Brighton!!

  7. Res Reply

    Unfortunately this is reality for many tenants in B & H. It is all about supply and demand. And as demand is so high landlords get away with almost anything. Because if someone does not like the condition of a flat there will be dozens more prepared to pay overpriced rents for poor flats.

  8. Deborah Reply

    My goodness, you people have entitlement issues. Why should you be housed? Because you decided to have children you couldn’t afford? It seriously beggars belief. I stayed here with my then boyfriend when I was 17 and it was fine.

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