Housing Minister praises ‘innovative’ £100m scheme to build 1,000 affordable homes in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 09 Dec 2016 at 11:02 am

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has praised the “innovative” £100 million scheme to build 1,000 affordable homes in Brighton and Hove.

His remarks came after a joint venture with Hyde Housing was agreed in principle last night by members of Brighton and Hove City Council.

At the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee it was described as the biggest commitment on housing for a generation by Labour council leader Warren Morgan.

The scheme was approved unanimously with the support of the Conservatives and Greens. Both parties tried to increase the number of affordable homes being built when they ran the council.

Mr Barwell, a Conservative minister, has previously made supportive comments about social housing.

He gave his backing this morning (Friday 9 December), saying: “Building affordable housing is a key priority for this government.

“I welcome the joint venture between Hyde Housing and Brighton and Hove Council to deliver 1,000 affordable homes.

Gavin Barwell

Gavin Barwell

“I’m keen to see more innovative partnerships like this one across the country to help deliver the homes we need.”

Mr Barwell’s support for social housing, including council housing, is regarded by some as unusual in Conservative ranks.

His party’s approach has, for many, been characterised by the “right to buy” policy which gave council tenants the chance to buy their own home.

Critics were unhappy that new homes were not built to replace those sold to tenants, leaving councils with fewer houses and flats while often having to deal with a growing waiting list.

In Brighton and Hove the housing waiting list includes more than 20,000 people, with many in urgent need despite a shortage of vacant properties.

Councillor Mary Mears tried to address this during her spell as Conservative leader of the council.

She and her successor – the Greens’ first council leader Bill Randall – set up Seaside Homes.

Councillor Mary Mears

Councillor Mary Mears

Like the joint venture with Hyde, Seaside Homes was an organisation created to give the council a chance of tackling housing problems within a constrained legal and financial framework. And as a result, hundreds of poor quality homes have been modernised.

Councillor Mears and one of her colleagues, Councillor Joe Miller, raised a number of questions between them at two marathon meetings of the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee, chaired by Labour councillor Anne Meadows.

As Councillor Tony Janio said during the meeting at Hove Town Hall last night, the Tories want new homes. They also want to ensure proper procedures are followed, risks are properly managed and public money is spent wisely.

Council leader Warren Morgan congratulated Green councillor David Gibson who took part in the Housing and New Homes Committee meetings for his work.

As a result, Councillor Morgan said, working people on a living wage had a better chance of being able to afford the new homes that will be built as a result of the joint venture with Hyde.

Councillor Gibson has criticised the way affordable housing measures affordability as a percentage of market rents rather than people’s wages.

Councillor David Gibson

Councillor David Gibson

Officials from the council and experts at Hyde have reworked the numbers to try to ensure as many of the new homes as possible are genuinely affordable to the highest number of people.

And unusually they have built in the prospect of a review of rents if the joint venture finances are better than forecast.

It fell to Councillor Ollie Sykes, for the Greens, to say last night that his party backed the principle of the project but felt that it had been important to get the best deal possible before signing up.

One person at the meeting said afterwards that Hyde, which has charity status, reinvests any profits in new homes rather than paying dividends to shareholders.

And yet it would be creating hundreds of private sector jobs, including in construction, over a number of years.

Over the past few years only Hyde had built homes on any scale in Brighton and Hove – but as the details and the individual housing schemes are discussed, it will give others a signal about whether Brighton and Hove is serious about building new homes and housing its population.

  1. Rostrum Reply

    Will these houses be built on ‘public land’ e.g. owned by B&H City?
    If £100,000 build cost per house will be VERY high.

  2. SamC Reply

    £100,000 per “unit” is not high – lots of regulations and eco requirements for modern construction that adds to the cost. A “unit” will range from studios to 3 bedroom flats. The £200-350/month maintenance fees, in addition to purchase price, council tax etc. means that a lot of affordable housing is not taken up. Look at #1 Hove Park.
    “if the joint venture finances are better than forecast” – NO CHANCE!

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