Brighton and Hove is in a housing crisis with homelessness, house prices and council waiting lists all increasing, according to speakers at a meeting on Saturday (May 12).
Residents were asked to share their views on how to solve the issue at an event organised by Hove Labour, which was chaired by MP Peter Kyle, with John Healey, Labour's shadow secretary of state for housing.
Mr Healey said: “I have to say this [type of meeting] is a first. It isn’t just a meeting in which you’ve got people like me talking, but you’ve got people like me here to listen.”
Figures from Homeless Link show that in 2017 Brighton and Hove had the second highest level of rough sleeping in the country.
Cllr Clare Moonan, the council's lead member for homelessness, said: “Rough sleeping is the sharpest edge of homelessness and just last year we had a 15 per cent rise in our city.
“We spend millions of pounds and the voluntary sector out there do an awful lot, but it isn't good enough and I am determined that we will bring that number down this winter.”
Mr Kyle, speaking about the efforts of city councillors, said: “You sense the huge passion but also the enormous frustration that central government right now is preventing them from doing the things that would make the difference.”
A short film was shown featuring residents talking about their difficulties dealing with homelessness and the changes in the housing market.
Juliet Rust, 65, of St Aubyns, Hove, said: “I’m in a rented accommodation which looks like it could become too expensive for me to stay in before long.”
The council’s recent housing market report showed average house prices have increased by as much as 13 per cent in 2017 and rental has risen by 9.4 per cent.
Ms Rust said after eight years she was removed from the council house waiting list due to a change in applicant criteria.
She said: “I don’t have an enormous savings or any likely opportunity to find myself somewhere suitable to live in the area.”
Andy Winter, chief executive of homeless charity Brighton Housing Trust, said: “The housing devastation in this country was not the result of a naturally-occurring phenomenon.
“It was through design, incompetence or a lack of care, and I suspect it was a combination of all three.”
A report by housing charity Shelter in January, addressing crucial issues highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire, found almost half of families in social housing were ignored when reporting poor or unsafe conditions.
Mr Healey said: “I have had a number of discussions with the groups of survivors from Grenfell and they tell us the tenants were victims before the fire.
“They say: ‘We are treated as second class citizens in social towns’.”
Several organisations including Acorn, Living Rent Campaign, and Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition set up a ‘marketplace’ at the meeting offering support and advice on taking action.
Ms Rust said she was impressed with the effort and energy that had been put in by the meeting’s organisers to create such an informative event.
She added: “It was lively, and there was some sense of energy and hope generated.”