This week I saw what local government can do to meet the housing needs of local residents.
At Kite Place in Whitehawk I visited new council homes that are a match for anything in the private sector. Energy efficient, broadband-enabled council homes for households who desperately need them, including six accessible wheelchair units. 57 flats that the council has built, part of the 500 we are delivering. We need to do much more.
For those in most critical need, without anywhere to sleep, we announced that we are opening a winter shelter behind the Brighton Centre to accommodate people sleeping rough, giving them the support they need. We need to do even more.
Within the next few months we will see planning applications for the first three sites in our ground-breaking plan to deliver 1,000 truly affordable homes across the city. Available for rent or shared ownership, affordable for those on the National Living Wage, these will meet some of the demand for housing among workers in our public sector and key industries currently priced out of living in Brighton and Hove. But we do need to do more.
Toads Hole Valley north of Hove is the last major site for housing in the city, bounded as we are by the National Park. It offers the potential for over 700 new homes as part of our City Plan. As many of these must be as truly affordable as possible. We can do more.
Long-standing national policy requires up to 40 per cent of homes to be affordable in new developments. However it uses the 80 per cent of market rates definition of ‘affordable’ which, if it ever was affordable, isn’t now. Developers push back on providing affordable housing even at this rate, but in truth few in housing need in our city can afford a home at 80 per cent of market rates. We want to do better.
I am determined that we can ask more of developers, more units at more affordable rates. Our housing need is critical, our communities and businesses need truly affordable homes for those who live and work here. We will now set about considering policies that could ask more from developers, and deliver more for families and individuals who need a home.
Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.