Council to set up ‘homeless reduction board’ to tackle rough sleeping

Almost a thousand people have been found sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove over the past two years.

More than half of the 876 rough sleepers were found more than once by staff from the council or other organisations.

The figures were included in a report to councillors at a meeting where they approved a new strategy to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.

At the meeting, Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee also agreed to set up a “homeless reduction board” as part of the new strategy.

The committee was told that high rents, a shortage of council houses and flats and individuals with complex personal needs had contributed to homelessness locally.

The housing shortage was exacerbated by the rising population which now topped 290,000 in Brighton and Hove – up more than 12,000 since 2013.

Labour councillor Nikkie Brennan said that half the people arriving homeless in the city had no local connection and their issues would “not be going away”.

Fellow Labour councillor Peter Atkinson said that the situation was “unsustainable”, adding: “It’s difficult if not impossible to sustain a continuing number of people coming to the city without anywhere to stay.

“Figures state 50 per cent at the moment. It is unsustainable in the long term but we need to recognise we have been doing a lot up to now.”

Councillor Atkinson said that he spent some time at the council’s offices at Bartholomew House in Brighton where he saw a mother arrive with her three children, expecting to be housed.

He said: “Staff were patient and kind and sensitive and reconnected this person with social services and they eventually went back to their own town. To see that first hand was quite something.”

Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones had also shadowed the council’s housing officers and asked about links with Lewes Prison.

She said that she was “saddened” that the prison no longer had a housing officer although she was told that the council did communicate with the prison to support people into housing.

Conservative councillor Mary Mears asked how much funding came from the government and how much was spent with other organisations.

The Housing Committee was told that not only was buying a home out of reach for a growing number of people but renting was increasingly unaffordable.

A flat would cost more than 10 times a buyer’s salary and a house more than 16 times.

Housing-related benefits increasingly did not cover the cost of renting from a private landlord.

Single people under 35 in a shared house were entitled £359 a month but rent in a shared house in Brighton and Hove typically cost £570 a month.

The council housing waiting list stood at 10,000 households. But there were only 17,910 socially rented properties in Brighton – those owned by the council or a housing association.

And, the committee was told, council housing stock had fallen by 779 properties to just over 13,000 since 2011.

The new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-25 involves working with government funding, council money and a range of organisations to prevent people from becoming homeless and to help those who have nowhere to live.

The council is legally required to produce the strategy and will now look to the proposed “homeless reduction board” to come up with an action plan.

  1. MegA Reply

    17 January Meg A – Brighton and Hove News
    The council has contributed to the lack of cheaper housing in the city by mandating HMO licensing for 3-bedroom homes typically let to sharers (NOT students). Many landlords did not want the hassle and cost of HMO license and can get as much rent in a 3-bedroom house having 2 tenants as they did have 3 tenants in the past because of increase in demand. In addition, rents have risen to absorb the extra costs for HMO licensing as well as losing tax relief on interest on buy-to let loans. There are many, many vacant spare 3rd bedrooms in rental houses in this city that, in previous times, would have been let as part of a share house at relatively cheap rent. Look at the rental advertisement – 3-bedroom house for rent to family or 2 sharers. Another example of the law of unintended consequences. Council should be everything it can to increase availability of relatively cheap rental accommodation rather than restrict the availability as it is now with these ill-conceived policies.

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