A £105 million scheme to build or buy 1,000 low-cost homes in Brighton and Hove suffered a setback this evening (Wednesday 21 September).
But he reeled off a series of questions about the financial and legal implications of the scheme before members of the Housing and New Homes Committee voted to delay its decision.
They want to use the extra time to be given more information about the potential costs as the council looks at ways to tackle a housing waiting list with 23,000 households on it. Greater demand, rising rents and purchase prices are exacerbating the situation.
Councillor Miller said: “I think this is hugely risky for the council and lots of questions are unanswered … this has been rushed. It’s not ready and it delegates too much to officers.”
Councillor Peter Atkinson said: “The housing shortage is not just a national tragedy but a national scandal.”
He said that Hyde had an excellent track record and he was delighted that it was proposing working with the council to tackle the problem locally.
Councillor Steve Bell said: “I really welcome this and I hope it succeeds but I do have serious reservations.
“We were only given this information ten days ago and a briefing two days ago. That isn’t enough time. The scale of the task is monumental.”
Councillor Mary Mears said: “This is a huge amount of money wherever it’s taken from. This is a really serious issue.
“There’s real concern within our group around the governance of this.”
She said that it was important to show that going into partnership with Hyde was the right thing to do because there had been no procurement process.
“It has to be open and transparent,” she said, “particularly as there has been no procurement process.”
Councillor Mears said that there were other issues and questions that should have been addressed in the report before the committee.
And she bridled at a suggestion by Councillor Anne Meadows, who chairs the committee, that the Conservatives and Greens were playing games.
Councillor Mears added: “It is important that this is done properly.”
Councillor Meadows said: “Lack of housing in the city is a very serious issue.”
Councillor David Gibson welcomed the proposed joint venture in principle as a promising way of tackling Brighton and Hove’s housing problem.
He said: “Like Councillor Atkinson, I welcome that we’re moving towards the principle of providing ‘living wage’ homes that are based nearer people’s incomes and less on market values.”
He also said that others had expressed concerns on behalf of council tax payers but this offered a good deal for council tax payers.
Councillor Gibson spoke about having had a presentation on Monday night (19 September) with no time for the Green group of councillors to discuss the proposal.
He said that, worryingly, the assumptions relied on property price rises but no building costs inflation.
The deal would outlast the current council administration, he said, adding: “We’ve got to allay these concerns and iron out the details and all go forward together as far as possible.”
Hyde said: “We look forward to the committee bringing this back for further discussion in due course.”