Warren Morgan: The Government should back our housing plans

Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council
Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council

Few argue that Brighton and Hove needs more housing, the debate is usually about where to build it and how affordable it is.

Another issue of course is how to pay for it.

We have committed to build or at least start 500 new council homes by 2020, and we are on the way to doing that. Brooke Mead and Kite Place are the two latest developments to welcome tenants. We have been challenged on how much these developments cost, but anyone who has seen them has acknowledged it is money well spent. The homes will cater for people with disabilities and for people at every stage of their lives, saving the council money in social care costs as people are more able to live independently at home.

One of the lessons from houses built in the second half of the 20th Century is that you can’t skimp on quality; homes don’t last and are prone to damp and other issues.

We fund our new council homes using borrowing against the revenue from existing council rents, the Housing Revenue Account. Currently the Government limits the amount we can borrow, thus limiting what we can build. This week the cross-party Commons Treasury Committee, chaired by a former Conservative Cabinet member, said that cap on borrowing should be lifted to allow councils to deliver more homes. This was swiftly refused by a Government minister, who said that the private sector should deliver new homes.

Any new council homes we do build are of course subject to the Right to Buy, and recent national surveys have shown that many former council homes end up in the hands of private landlords. In response to this councils are coming up with innovative ways to deliver affordable homes and replace poor quality accommodation for people on lower incomes.

Our joint venture with Hyde Housing Association will deliver a thousand homes at rents at affordable to those on the National Living Wage and for shared ownership. People in our communities need decent homes they can afford. We can’t depend on the private sector to deliver them.

Without affordable housing our public services and our local businesses can’t survive. I’m saying to the decision-makers in London, give us the freedoms to build, the funding we require, and allow us the innovations we need to build the good quality, truly affordable homes people are crying out for.

Cllr Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council