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Council To Offer Private Rentals To People On Brighton & Hove Housing List

Monday, 20 November 2023 06:56

By Sarah Booker-Lewis, Local Democracy reporter

People in temporary housing look likely to be offered private rented housing as part of a drive to tackle housing waiting lists.

But former Green councillor David Gibson said that the policy would be a step backwards, adding:

Surely it is better that private rented is a choice rather than a compulsion.

“Having previously opposed forcing homeless people into insecure private rented housing against their will, please can the new administration explain what has changed their view and why this new approach is preferable now?”

He was speaking at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing and New Homes Committee at Hove Town Hall on Wednesday (15 November).

Labour councillor Andrei Czolak, the deputy chair of the committee, said that the use of private rented housing was a suitable way to try to tackle homelessness

Councillor Czolak said:

“Instead of facing many years in temporary accommodation – which could be insecure, unsettled and more expensive – the private sector does provide suitable accommodation to numerous people and is frequently the best option for those who are very unlikely to be allocated council properties.

“Almost a third of people in the city live in such homes.”

Mr Gibson raised concerns about people being housed outside Brighton and Hove but Councillor Czolak said that if, for example, children were at local schools, this would be a last resort.

Any offer of housing outside Brighton and Hove would be made only when people were already living outside the area or could not stay in the city because, say, they were fleeing domestic violence or abuse.

Housing campaigner Daniel Harris said that thousands of private homes in Brighton and Hove were empty and that the council should be tougher with those landlords.

He said:

“You’ve got entire homes being turned over to Airbnbs. Why is the administration not getting tough on those landlords?

“What we’re seeing here is a potential purge of working-class people being housed outside the area in places where they’re not going to be getting support.”

Mr Harris reminded the committee that East Sussex County Council had threatened to take Brighton and Hove City Council to court over the housing of vulnerable people at Kendal Court, in Newhaven.

The council’s executive director for housing, neighbourhoods and communities Rachel Sharpe said:

“The driver for this is we need to reduce the number of people we have in temporary accommodation for their sake and for the council’s sake.

“It’s not right that we have so many households and families in temporary accommodation and we need to find a way to move those people and settle them in accommodation as quickly as we can.”

Green councillor Ellen McLeay said that the private rental sector contributed to homelessness. She said that 58 per cent of households experienced homelessness at the end of a tenancy.

Councillor McLeay said: “Private renting is much less secure (and) is invariably more expensive, leaving low-income households with less.”

Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw asked about flexibility for people housed outside Brighton and Hove for less than two years in private rented housing.

Councillor Grimshaw, a domestic abuse survivor, said:

“I was in temporary (housing) for many, many years, assuming I had gone through all this trauma, hoping eventually I would get permanent housing.

“If I then found out that I wasn’t going to get that and I was going to be placed in the private rented sector, I would have been devastated.”

The council’s assistant director for housing needs and supply Paul Cooper said that the policy would be implemented only when housing in Brighton and Hove was not appropriate.

He said that there was a two-year limit to the council’s duty to rehouse people if it had housed them outside Brighton and Hove but this could be looked at as part of the wider housing policy review next year.

Conservative councillor Anne Meadows asked about people in private housing having carers, saying that the service was confined to those within the boundary of a local authority.

Mr Cooper said that consideration would be given to people with caring responsibilities and needs and that a home further away might not be suitable.

The number of homeless households approaching the council for help had risen 20 per cent in the past year, up from 2,316 in 2022-23.

This year a forecast suggested that 2,764 households were likely to ask for help with housing.

A third of the 4,665 people on the housing register were homeless, with the majority in temporary housing, the meeting was told.

Each household in temporary housing would cost the council about £9,200, taking the overall bill to almost £16 million last year.

The council currently allocates about 600 properties a year, with the average waiting time for a one-bedroom property at just over two years.

People were waiting four and a half years for a two-bedroom home and more than eight years for a three-bedroom property.

Four-bedroom homes were so rare that none had been let in the past three years.

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