Peter Kyle: Finding solutions to our housing and homelessness crisis
Anyone who lives in Brighton and Hove will have noticed that there are now more people sleeping rough on our streets than in previous years.
As I wrote in my column last month, homelessness is a heartbreaking and growing problem in our city which demands urgent action as winter sets in.
But the full extent of our housing crisis is in fact hidden from view. What is less visible is the problem of growing numbers of families who are being forced to live in temporary emergency accommodation. This means families with children who have no other option than to stay in B&Bs and other unsuitable and temporary sites, often for months at a time.
It is not hard to imagine the difficulties of living situations like this – the insecurity, the overcrowding, and the often squalid conditions.
But there are solutions out there. This month, I visited the developers who made the award-winning Richardson’s Yard development in Brighton, where 36 studio flats have been developed from refurbished shipping containers. The development sits on a parcel of land which is awaiting long-term regeneration and would otherwise be unused.
It’s a fantastic way to get people out of poor-quality accommodation – they are used as “move-on” homes for vulnerable people, and it’s the first movable accommodation scheme of its kind.
It’s also a brilliant way to make use of land that would otherwise be empty and disused, and the flats can be created really quickly – the 36-flat Richardson’s Yard development took just 14 weeks to be completed! It’s amazing to think how quickly we could create more homes for people in need in our city.
I will be championing this idea because there are other areas in Brighton and Hove which could also be used to build pop-up homes while the land awaits planning permission, such as the Sackville Road Industrial Park. It's expected that there will be a five-year wait until the site gets developed, so why not make good use of the land in the meantime, and help people escape emergency accommodation by giving them a decent home?
Labour’s record of action on homelessness in government is one of its biggest and proudest achievements. We showed that there’s nothing inevitable about mass homelessness, and that government can make a difference. Labour put the funding and new rules in place to make a difference and homelessness fell by almost two-thirds, and the number of people sleeping rough on our streets dropped by three-quarters. I hope that soon Labour will be able to do this again and turn back the disastrous decisions of the last seven years.
Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove.