OPINION

Councils can’t solve housing crisis alone

Posted On 21 Dec 2021 at 11:52 am

At this festive time of year with little daylight and long, cold nights, our thoughts often turn to those struggling with housing need.

We’ve been living with a worsening housing crisis in this country for years and we have particularly acute challenges in our city.

There 8,500 people on the council’s housing register waiting for permanent homes or living in overpriced temporary accommodation, often in the private sector.

This situation is exacerbated by house prices increasing by 11.8 per cent over the year – a staggering 6 percentage points more than London rates.

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The private rented sector accounts for 30.75 per cent of the housing in our city and these rises inevitably lead to extremely high rents too.

I know many residents of the Georgian and Victorian facades in the ward I represent are renting small expensive studio or one-bedroom flats.

I’ve talked to young working people desperately wanting to buy or rent a bigger home but unable to escape the relentless reality of low wages and eye-wateringly high rent and purchase prices.

Although the council is making progress in building and acquiring homes for social housing with genuinely affordable rents, it is unable to do this at scale due to budget constraints.

Therefore, meeting our housing needs is very much at the mercy of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework and developers.

Although the framework states housing developments should contain at least 10 per cent “affordable” homes, the government’s definition of “affordable” is 80 per cent of local market rent.

Given the average rent in the city is currently £1,466 per month, so called “affordable” homes (if available) will still be £1,173 – hardly affordable, if you work in retail, care services, hospitality or a raft of other occupations.

We seriously need accessible and truly affordable family homes for our residents and families, so my message to developers is to please act responsibly when planning to build in our city, work closely with our community and our council.

And my message to government is please give councils the power to say “no” to bad developments. Profit can be measured in other ways in addition to financial balance sheets.

Councillor John Allcock is the joint Labour opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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