Council seeks flat blocks for temporary housing in Brighton and Hove

Stonehurst Court Brighton, where new temporary accommodation is being created from former sheltered housing.
Stonehurst Court Brighton, where new temporary accommodation is being created from former sheltered housing.

Council housing chiefs are preparing to buy blocks of flats to use as short-term temporary homes in Brighton and Hove.

The move comes after the cost of providing emergency housing soared from £1.2 million to £2.8 million over the past three years.

They say that if a “business case” can be made, it would be better for the council to buy properties rather than pay a relatively small number of private landlord “providers”.

Councillors are being asked to back the move which may even require senior officials to be able to bid at local auctions.

The request comes in a report to Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing and New Homes Committee.

It follows a campaign by Green councillor David Gibson and others to bring more temporary and emergency housing “in house” rather than relying on the private sector.

A report to the Housing and New Homes Committee said that the number of people in temporary housing had remained broadly stable over the past year.

And that the council had set aside £2.1 million from its “general fund” to buy housing so that it could put up more people in need in council-owned properties.

The council’s Housing Revenue Account budget also has £3.5 million available to support the policy in the coming year.

Some of the £3.5 million would come from the proceeds when tenants bought their council house or flat under “right to buy” rules. The rest – 70 per cent – would be borrowed.

The homes would then be fully equipped for people who need a temporary home at short notice, with furniture, appliances and basic kitchen equipment as well as bedding and towels.

According to the report to the Housing and New Homes Committee, people put up in emergency and temporary housing are staying longer than in the past.

The report also said: “Rather than procure B&B style accommodation, self-contained flats would be preferable that would not require 24/7 on-site staffing but staff available during office hours to book people in and out and manage the accommodation.

“However, it would be prudent to provide security to undertake regular checks on properties out of hours and to be called in an emergency.

“In addition, the current housing support service would be able to support residents and help them settle into accommodation.”

The switch from private to council-owned temporary housing is already under way, with the report listing 10 homes being built in the old housing office in Oxford Street, Brighton. The scheme was given planning permission yesterday (Wednesday 12 June).

Ten of the 20 properties bought back – after being sold by the council under “right to buy” rules – have been allocated for temporary housing.

So have the 15 homes in two properties bought by the council in Tilbury Place, Brighton.

And an old sheltered housing scheme in Stonehurst Court, Brighton, is also being turned into temporary homes for families, with a refurbishment project under way there.

Most temporary housing consists of individual flats and houses leased from owners and managed by the council.

The report said that this accounted for about 900 homes, with a further 499 provided by Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes. The Seaside Homes stock consists largely of rundown former council properties.

The “business case” for the proposed temporary homes allows for a six-week turnaround between tenants – in contrast to the two days permitted for private sector landlords.

The report is due to be discussed by the Housing and New Homes Committee at Hove Town Hall next Wednesday (19 June). The meeting is scheduled to start at 4pm and should be open to the public.