Joint venture scheme to build 1,000 new homes in Brighton and Hove clears first hurdle

Posted On 16 Nov 2016 at 8:24 pm

A £105 million joint venture scheme to build 1,000 new homes in Brighton and Hove has cleared its first hurdle.

Members of the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee backed the joint venture between Hyde Housing and Brighton and Hove City Council.

The aim is to build 1,000 low-cost homes for rent or sale to local people who are in work but on low wages.

For the second time in two months, councillors asked a series of questions during another marathon meeting at Hove Town Hall.

But this time they backed a recommendation for the joint venture to go forward.

It still has to be approved by the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee – and possibly even the full council.

Housing GV
Opposition councillors, including Mary Mears, Steve Bell, David Gibson and Tom Druitt, raised concerns about a range of details.

These included questions about the level of affordability and how much involvement elected councillors would have in overseeing the joint venture.

Councillor Mears, a former Conservative leader of the council, said: “Everything is being delegated to officers. We are elected members and we are the ones who take the flak if it goes wrong.

“There’s a figure – 1,000 – but to date we don’t know where those sites are going to be.”

She was worried that sites could be taken from the council’s existing housing stock or land holdings. And she said that she was concerned that the homes may not be built to the lifetime homes standard making them unavailable for people who use wheelchairs.

Labour councillor Peter Atkinson said: “These proposals will provide much-needed family housing. This venture provides a huge opportunity.”

He said that he was regularly contacted by residents struggling to find an affordable place to live. He also praised Hyde’s credentials and the savings that the joint venture would generate for the council.

Councillor Mary Mears

Councillor Mary Mears

Conservative councillor Steve Bell said: “We fully support the concept. The chance for a living wage joint venture is something the city really needs.

“I’m also grateful for all the meetings that the officers and Hyde have attended.”

But he said: “This has been inadequately prepared for the large sum of money we are preparing to borrow.”

And he also criticised lack of member involvement, preventing them from being able to exercise democratic control.

Councillor Tom Druitt echoed the reservations set out about affordability by his Green colleague Councillor David Gibson.

Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor Druitt said: “I welcome all the work that’s gone into the joint venture. I do think it’s going to make a big difference.

“In order to fully reach its potential this joint venture has to do what it says on the tin.

“We have to put a bit more effort into making sure the rents truly are living rents.

“If people living in these properties still struggle to pay their bills and provide food for their families then this won’t have achieved what it set out to achieve.

“There is a danger that this is a big exercise in deception.

“I would urge all partners in this to pull all the stops out to get the best deal for tenants that we possibly can.”

Labour councillor Clare Moonan said: “Let’s not forget the added benefit that this scheme will bring as well as houses. There are lots of extra benefits like the jobs.”

Councillor Anne Meadows

Councillor Anne Meadows

On affordability, she said: “It doesn’t go as far as we would like it to and we will push for it to go further.”

But she said that it was part of a bigger picture of a series of housing schemes in progress, adding that she hoped to get “a really robust deal for the city”.

Councillor Anne Meadows, who chairs the Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “This joint venture with Hyde Housing will allow us to build up to a thousand homes – affordable, as they are based on the national living wage.

“These homes will be more environmentally friendly – that will save people money on their fuel and water bills. This will be life-changing for so many people.

“Yes, there are lots of details we need to iron out but that shouldn’t stop us moving forward to the next stage.”

  1. Alex Reply

    The council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee should find many flaws in this proposal.. if they don’t, then something is seriously wrong and this city is exposed to a huge liability. Too many unanswered questions. The sums do not add up.. BHCC borrowing £50 million when the sites are not even nominated is foolish. P&P partnerships have no record of success or economic soundness in this city. Risky and wont deliver what is needed… the affordable rents and shared-ownership will NOT be affordable by people on waiting lists.

  2. Gemma Reply

    As I understand it this isn’t a ‘public private partnership’ or P&P as such, it’s a joint venture. So putting it really simply, each £ in should get a £ out (assuming a 50:50 ratio). Therefore this is rather different to the P&P’s you normally hear of where the public does worse than the private (although aren’t housing associations public sector too?!). So I don’t think this stands.

    Regarding the £50M. Let’s get real about this. The Council isn’t going to borrow anything close to £50M to put into the project until the sites are lined up (and I expect will fund the project on a site by site basis) – so I sense this is a red herring.

    I’ve followed a few stories on this now which has gathered my interest, and as I understand it, the homes are cheaper than the new builds the Council is constructing itself – so the claims of un affordability sound a bit shallow… ?

    On the face of it I’m all for this, although I’m grateful for sceptical and challenging Councillors. They appear to be acting in our best interests, and holding out for a good deal for once.

  3. Daniel Harris Reply

    I was happy with the scrutiny of this policy in the Housing and New Homes Committee.

    Great News! Now just need more answers, they have clearly looked at websites.

  4. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Too many known unknowns to be going ahead at this time.

  5. Peter Clarke Reply

    The principle of this is fundamentally a great idea – there is no “affordable” housing in the Brighton and Hove area, in honesty there is none in West Sussex as a whole. Greedy landlords and buy to letters have priced out ordinary people, and with an average 2 bed in the area costing £1k a month, I would welcome affordable housing- provided it is exactly that. Something needs to happen locally because the local rental and purchase prices have simply become obscene.

  6. Mark Henson Reply

    I have no issue with the principle but the biggest worry of all this is that the proposal has not been put out to tender to ensure the best price for the Council. It has just been awarded to Hyde without any due Procurement process that would enable the Council to test the market and ensure they are getting value for money! This is actually frightening and I cannot believe there is a single good reason for this to happen. Why would there be a reluctance to put a deal of this size out to tender just like I would for a small job at my house (i.e. get 3 quotes)? In the Argus, Labour councillor Peter Atkinson was quoted as saying “it was saving the taxpayers money by not going through procurement processes”. Is he serious? Great idea Peter, lets sack the entire procurement department, it will save loads and we can then just accept the first deal that any supplier comes to us with.

    Why is more not being made about this being awarded directly to Hyde without going to tender, the same Housing Association who welcomed the Council CEO to a conference in Cannes in the summer? Doing it this way creates an environment that facilitates dodgy dealings and leaves the Council open to all sorts of accusations.

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