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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

Housing: national emergency, local crisis, Lib Dem solution

July 31, 2017 11:51 AM
By Carrie Hynds, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hove

During his time as Lib Dem party leader, Tim Farron declared a "national emergency" in housing. In Brighton & Hove, we have a local housing crisis on top of this, with our cost-to-wage ratio significantly worse than the national average.

Put simply, many people who work here can't afford to live here. The average rent for a one-bed flat is over £950/month, and the average house price is 12 times higher than the average annual wage. Street homelessness has doubled in the past year in our city. Against this backdrop, only 65 affordable homes have been built in the past twelve months, whilst Brighton & Hove City Council has allowed developers to buy their way out of affordable housing requirements.

Those are the problems; what about the solutions?

First and foremost, we need the council to impose their own 40% affordable homes requirement on new developments of 15 or more dwellings. Please sign and share our petition - once we reach 1,250 signatures, I will present it to the council and they will be obliged to debate the issue.

This is part of our four-point plan HOPE, to make Brighton & Hove truly affordable to live in:

1. HOMES: 40% affordable housing is a must

Brighton & Hove City Council must enforce the 40% affordable housing requirement in each new scheme. This is the council's own target but it has become routine for developers to under-deliver. The council extracting money in exchange for missed targets does nothing to provide the affordable homes we so desperately need.

2. OPENNESS: open, democratic, transparent planning

In order to build the homes we need, residents need to feel included and passionate about the changes, and this can't happen if decisions are made behind closed doors. The secretive process used by Labour, Conservative and Green councillors for the King Alfred development was a disgrace. With no sign of the promised public consultation, it is time to scrap the scheme and start again with a clear, transparent process. The public have every right to participate in the future of the city and we need a fresh start at King Alfred.

3. PARTNERSHIPS: working with the right partners to secure the best deal

The 1,000 homes resulting from the proposed Joint Venture with Hyde falls far short of the 12,000 needed by 2030 and means staking £53 million of taxpayers' money with, as yet, not a single site identified. Working with other partners in the city must be explored, particularly in situations where the developer would contribute the build if the council contributes the land, so that there are no demands on the general fund or risk to frontline council services.

4. ECO-HOUSING: environmentally friendly and economical to run

Ecological housing is good for the environment and good for the people who live in them. The use of insulation, double glazing and efficient heating systems helps to reduce energy bills for households into the future, whilst use of sustainable and recycled building materials, where practical, can help the environment. Building new housing or converting older buildings near public transport and community facilities reduces the need to make as many car journeys, whilst for new developments, public transport links are absolutely vital.

Last but not least, we need to tackle the NIMBY culture. Our city is expanding and we need to be prepared to build on under-used land. Decent sized developments bring with them community assets, such as football pitches and outdoor gyms, and require issues such as transport and access to GP surgeries to be fully taken into account.

If we move away from HMOs and towards proper planning, we can build true communities. If we stop building luxury flats for overseas investors and start building affordable homes for the people who work here, our whole city will benefit.

Build more housing, build the right type of housing, hold developers to account on affordable homes and plan services around the needs of those who will live there. It's not easy - but it is simple. And we've got the will to get it done.