Rising rents, affordability and Universal Credit discussed at city housing debate

The Rent Smart Conference at Hove Town Hall
The Rent Smart Conference at Hove Town Hall

Families are being ‘forced out’ of Brighton by rising rents, a conference has heard.

The first Rent Smart Conference at Hove Town Hall last Wednesday saw campaigners, housing experts, charities and landlords come together to discuss topics from affordability to Universal Credit.

Key speaker Poppy Terry from Shelter said: “There are 12 million renters in the UK today and one in four of those are families.”

She said one problem is the high demand for private renting with councils now heavily relying on the private sector.

Shelter believes contracts of up to five years, with predictable rents will give tenants more security.

According to Green councillor David Gibson, who is part of the Living Rent campaign, 33 per cent of households in Brighton earn less than £20 000 a year, making the city’s rents unaffordable. He said: “People are being forced out.”

With rents in the city above national average, Mr Gibson said the Good Landlord scheme would benefit these families and landlords.

The scheme requires landlords to agree to longer rents offering people in the city more stability and stronger tenancies.

The Good Landlord scheme also works with other local organisations like Southern Landlords Association to address affordability.

Mr Gibson said landlords in Brighton and Hove have expressed interest in the scheme.

A Brighton landlord of 50 years who has invested in hundreds of properties in the city said Universal Credit was making the situation worse.

Mike Stimpson said payments can take longer than the estimated six weeks leaving vulnerable people in rent arrears and sometimes facing eviction.

He said one of his tenants needed their employer to guarantee 35 hours per week, but he works in the hotel industry and is on a zero hour contract so couldn’t afford the higher rents.

Mr Stimpson said those not working could get the same rents paid for: “I find it unacceptable that people working cannot afford the same accommodation.”

John Francis, Brighton and Hove City Council’s welfare reform programme manager, said it was too early to make predictions about the impact of Universal Credit but agreed the current wait could create risk.