Housing crisis will worsen, warns Brighton charity chief

Posted On 25 Nov 2020 at 12:53 pm

The housing crisis will get “much, much worse” as the government’s latest white paper was “yet another missed opportunity”, according to the boss of a Brighton charity.

Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) chief executive Andy Winter said: “Until we invest in the building of homes with social rents, we won’t see even the beginning of the end to the housing crisis.”

He told the Inside Government Social Housing Conference yesterday (Tuesday 24 November): “The Social Housing White Paper, called ‘The charter for social housing residents’, should really be called ‘An Apology for Repeated Policy and Regulatory Failures’.”

Mr Winter told the “virtual” conference that successive governments were responsible for a series of policy failures, a number of which he listed.

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He said that they had cost the taxpayer enormous sums but had done “nothing for people who are homeless or who are living in overcrowded accommodation or who can’t afford inflated house prices”.

He said that the “help to buy” scheme has been great for the chosen few, adding: “For others struggling with housing costs, ‘help to buy’ has had an inflationary impact on already overheated housing prices.”

He said that the scheme had been “great for the volume house builders who are raking in their publicly subsidised ‘help to buy’ profits”.

And the ‘right to buy’ a council house or flat had, he said, “exacerbated the housing crisis, while rewarding those whose housing lottery number had already come up when they got their council house”.

He added: “The commitment to a one-for-one replacement for homes sold has proven to be about the most hollow a promise any politician has made in the last 25 years!

“What a shame that the public subsidy for the ‘right to buy’ was not invested wisely in something that would have added value and created more homes.

“England might one day follow the excellent example of Scotland and Wales who have ended the ‘right to buy’ once and for all.”

Mr Winter criticised the government’s continuing “obsession with home ownership” and said that some policies had been “ill-conceived in government, by politicians blinded by dogma (and) enabled by civil servants who should have stood up to ministers”.

He has for many years repeatedly called for public investment in social housing, including council housing but said that it was a “shame that there are no new policy suggestions regarding support for community-led housing”.

And he said: “(The) failure to invest in homes with social rents is having devastating consequences.

Andy Winter

“Homelessness is up. Waiting lists are up. The hope of getting a truly affordable home is down.

“Government housing policy is failing and has been failing for many, many years.

“This White Paper is yet another missed opportunity. Until we invest in the building of homes with social rents, we won’t see even the beginning of the end to the housing crisis.

“And we will be back here discussing these same issues in three, five and ten years’ time. Only the crisis will have become much, much worse.”

  • For more details about the social housing white paper, click here.
  • To read the report of the House of Commons cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, entitled Building more social housing, click here.
  • To read the government’s response to the select committee report, click here.
  • To read Andy Winter’s blog, click here.

To comment, scroll down the page.

  1. rolivan Reply

    There will, unfortunately for some be an abundance of Office and Retail Space, and if the Council was to manage its vast Property Portfolio more efficiently then perhaps some of it could be turned into Social Housing.

  2. Greens Out Reply

    Remind me again of the figure spent on the homeless during the pandemic (so far) How many houses could that have built?

    • Robin Hislop Reply

      Ridiculous whataboutery irrelevant to the article. Even taking your point at face value, it would take many months to build even one house – how is that supposed to house and protect homeless people during an unforeseen pandemic which is happening now?

      • Greens Out Reply

        the point is they can find all that money for that yet they can’t/won’t build ‘affordable’ housing when they can. Yet constantly complain about the government not giving them enough funding.

        This lot, and their predeccessors, are financially unviable.

        This will be proven when they bankrupt the town.

      • BAHTAG Reply

        It only takes a little ‘inside knowledge’ to realise that the writer of Greens Out is on the right track, whilst Robin Hislop sounds like a party-political lobbyist.

        The reality of the nearly 400 so-called ‘Rough Sleepers’ being housed in hotels by BHCC, at taxpayers expense, is to minimise the spread of Covid-19 infection.

        It’s important to understand that, in normal times, many of the nearly 400 have no right to be housed,by any English Council, because, for some reason somewhere in England, they have been assessed by a Council as having made themselves ‘Intentionally Homeless’.

        So contrast this with the situation of our City’s own people who’ve lost their rented home through no fault of their own (often due to a landlord repossessing the dwelling, to tart it up and then to re-let it at a higher rent).

        Under Housing Act legislation such unfortunate people usually have to be found accommodation (which they pay for) by BHCC in, or within 1 hour of, our City (unclear as to how that travel-time is calculated – typical BHCC!).

        So what Greens Out seems to be driving at is how did the number of Rough Sleepers (i.e.the Intentionally Homeless not owed a ‘Housing Duty by any English Council) in our City balloon from a count of around 80 last November to more than 350 by early April?

        BHCC has so far not published any analysis of the origins of that large group, thus logic suggests that many are/were incomers, with the likelihood that some were actually given travel tickets to come here from other places, to become a burden on the services provided by City taxpayers to assist our own needy.

        And now it transpires that MHCLG is bribing BHCC (with extra grant money) to obtain long-term housing for these incomers who have no right to be provided with housing anywhere in England.

        It’s also important to note that one bed-space in our City provided to an incomers is one bed-space less for a City resident (often a young person from a local family needing to get a start in adult life) who needs it more.

        And we have a Kafka-esque situation where BHCC pays an organisation (called St Mungo’s, albeit not faith-based) to find rough-sleepers to ‘take them off the streets'(prior to the pandemic). So, for both parties, there’s an enormous incentive to show that the contract’s working – by ‘gaming’ the Local Connection criteria to accept such incomers, and to provide a scarce bed-space to them, so they can become a burden on City taxpayers and public services for years to come.

        Naturally there can be no reasonable objection to a true charity, such as Emmaus in Portslade, offering a community with accommodation for those wishing it – but there’s no sign that BHCC ever explicitly asked City taxpayers to fund the migration of dependent persons into our City – or is there some twisted logic in Hove Town Hall that sees about £10m pa being spent on those not owed a ‘Housing Duty’ (and with hardly any new dwellings being built from that money!) as being beneficial to our City’s economy?

        Also pathetic is BHCC’s failure to offer adequate re-location to those who’ve landed on our doorstep, or have been sent to us as a soft-touch City!

        Housing law speaks of assisting a homeless incomer to be re-connected to where they came from – when it is safe back there.

        Self-evidently almost every would-be incomer can easily plead it’s not safe to go back home (especially when aided by St Mungo’s to make such a case to BHCC!).

        So the solution to that is for BHCC to start a one-off ‘Gold Standard’ residential service to re-connect incomers to somewhere else acceptable to them, and to re-boot their lives with healthcare and benefits, and furnishing the new home, all taken care of.

        Possibly even to the extent of a BHCC Social Worker actually driving the person to their new home (and staying there long enough to be certain everything is in place and working).

        Perhaps a seemingly expensive month’s work, by professionals, such as social workers, clinicians, and – yes – lawyers (to establish the duties of the public sector at the chosen destination), but such good work also justifies the issuing of a ‘Don’t come back’ Court Order to someone who’s been helped on to their feet in such an excellent way?

        And we must NEVER lose sight of the scandal of the City’s own 40 or so ‘Street People’. Yes, Intentionally Homeless, but by virtue of being ill and/or disabled, owed a Duty of Care by BHCC Social Services.

        So why are 40 or so of our Vulnerable Adults out on the street?

        BHCC will say it’s because they steadfastly refuse all ‘support’.

        But that’s the wrong answer – such people will have multiple individual reasons for declining ‘support’ – but mainly because BHCC is not offering the right kind of support, tailored to meet the wishes and needs of each street person.

        Yes, it’s difficult to work with people who may have soiled themselves, and whose clothes may be urine-soaked – but there are professionals who do know how – so it’s up to BHCC to employ such professionals, and to provide them with all relevant facilities (such as a clean-up location, and a vehicle (like a golf-cart) which can be hosed-out after use).

        Not quite rocket-science, but skilled professionalism needed all the same!

        And when would-be incomers find in Brighton & Hove they get moved-on so quickly (24/7) that there’s no money to be gained on the streets of our City such persons will go elsewhere to develop their begging abilities, surely?

  3. Nigel Furness Reply

    What a brilliant post, BAHTAG—we need YOU on our Council—or possibly as one of it’s Senior Officers—at least YOU’D be worth £125,000 of council tax-payers’ money!
    I must say that I’ve been highly impressed of late by the sheer quality and common sense of so many of the posts on here.
    It seems that the SILENT MAJORITY have finally found their voices—and not a moment too soon!

  4. Kathleen McMullen Reply

    I’ve read the social housing white paper and it’s misleading.

    The distinction between economic versus consumer regulation is dodgy.

    Tenants are citizens not just consumers and their rights to be decently and safely housed should be recognised. This shift of emphasis to ‘consumer regulation’ puts the onus on the tenant to be a consumer of services like a hotel guest. The latter can pick and choose, not so the social tenant who is bound by a contract, a tenancy agreement which is also an economic agreement, with their landperson.

    As tenancy agreements are regulated by tenancy law disguising this by separating consumer from economic regulation is not even for the birds. It won’t do. Social tenants, home seekers and the homeless are citizens and their rights as citizens should be respected.

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