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| October 19, 2018

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Council Taken to Task Over Failure to Honour Affordable Housing Pledges

Council Taken to Task Over Failure to Honour Affordable Housing Pledges
Andrew O'Connor

On Thursday 14th December, a group of political activists presented their 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.

1,095 people signed the petition, and 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 that were allocated to the speech, Carrie Hynds, of the Brighton & Hove Liberal Democrats, argued that:
“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 called upon the Council to implement its own 40% target more vigorously.

On 9th November, it was 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 looking at the increase from 5 to 10, it would be more realistic to frame the decision as an agreement to decrease from 24 to 10.

In the course of gathering signatures for the petition, Carrie Hynds spoke 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.

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. Through this petition, the Brighton & Hove 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!”

Carrie joined the Liberal Democrats in May 2015, just after the last general election. She lives in Hove, where she works as an editor and proofreader.

“In 2015, seeing so many hard-working Lib Dem MPs lose their seats made me want to take action, and I am proud to be a liberal voice for Hove & Portslade in this election. I will fight to build more affordable homes, reverse school funding cuts, invest in mental health services and give young people a real say in their future. I will oppose hard Brexit, heavy-handed government surveillance through the Snoopers’ Charter and the shameful removal of housing benefit for 18 to 21-year olds.”

“The average rent for a one-bed flat is now £978 per month, and rough sleeping has doubled in the past year. We need to start building truly affordable, sustainable homes right now or the fabric of our city will change.”

“Right now, young people in the UK have all of the responsibility of adults but fewer rights. We need to give young people a fair deal and real say in their futures. I’ve signed the Save Our Schools pledge to reverse the Conservatives’ disastrous cuts to funding which will see schools in Hove & Portslade lose an average of £193,500 per year.”

Carrie chairs our local B&H Lib Dem housing campaign, which calls for 40% affordable homes in new developments, more transparency in planning decisions, choosing the right partners for new developments and making sure new homes are environmentally friendly and economical to run.

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