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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

We take the council to task over affordable housing

December 15, 2017 9:03 AM
By Carrie Hynds, PPC for Hove

Carrie Hynds presenst housing petition to the council 2017-12-14On Thursday 14th December I presented our petition "Where's the 40%? We call upon Brighton & Hove City Council to meet their own affordable housing targets and make developers provide 40% affordable homes on sites of 15+ units." to the full council meeting at Hove Town Hall.

Thank you to the 1,095 people who signed: councillors who had been only half paying attention to the proceedings of the meeting literally sat up straight in their chairs as affordable homes came on the agenda.

In the three minutes we were allocated for a handover speech, I said:
"Brighton & Hove City Council has been repeatedly missing its 40% affordable homes target, which is worsening our city's housing crisis.

We have recently seen approval of schemes on sites such as the old Sackville Hotel at 17% affordable, the old Astoria cinema at 0% affordable and 121-123 Davigdor Road at 0% affordable. The loss of these homes is not being compensated because the 40% figure is not being exceeded elsewhere. The Liberal Democrats call upon the Council to implement its own 40% target more vigorously.

On 9th November, The Argus reported that councillors were "pleased" with the outcome of the Sackville Hotel site with 10 affordable units out of 60. This is because the developers initially applied with only 5 out of 60 affordable. But the 40% affordable figure would have been 24. Rather than look at the increase from 5 to 10, look at the decrease from 24 to 10. That is how those struggling to afford to live in our city will always see it and we need the council to be on our side.

In the course of gathering signatures for this petition, I've spoken to people spending over half their income on rent, people living long-term in temporary emergency accommodation and people who have been shocked to see the same housing and homelessness issues here as in London. Quite simply, for every development that misses affordable housing targets, the housing crisis in our city deepens.

The definition of "affordable" has already been squeezed to breaking point, with 80% market rate already out of reach for many of those who live and work in our city. We need elected councillors to make the most of the power they have and give clear instructions to council officers that 40% is a serious requirement.

Developers often use viability assessments to argue they cannot provide the required number of affordable homes and still turn a profit. The Liberal Democrats call for more transparency and therefore scrutiny. If all councillors and members of the public could see these viability assessments, they could be compared with the final profit actually made on the site.

We need councillors to be determined to stand up for 40% affordable both in council meetings and in the media. The homes delivered through New Homes for Neighbourhoods and the proposed joint venture are not enough and should not be presented as the whole solution. Above all, developers should not be praised by councillors for delivering less than 40% affordable housing.

Transparency, scrutiny and relentless focus are all needed to truly deliver on the 40%. Several people signing this petition warned me that in delivering it today I'd be banging my head against a brick wall. My challenge to you is to prove them wrong."

I handed over the signatures in a bright yellow folder to the Mayor, to great applause from the public gallery (with thanks to several local party members for giving up their afternoons to be there!). The Mayor thanked me and said that the petition will now go forward to the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee on 11th January 2018. (Answers on a postcard if you know why this was deemed to be the most relevant committee!)

What struck me while delivering the speech was that several councillors looked like they really wished I'd shut up. Needless to say this has made me determined to continue pushing for transparency and scrutiny in 2018!