Charities foot the bill for carpets and flooring in social housing, as people with nothing are housed in ’empty shells’.
Joint Leader of the Labor Opposition Carmen Appich raised the issue as Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee discussed the housing budget for the coming financial year.
At Hove Town Hall yesterday (Thursday February 10), Councilor Appich said people were given accommodation and expected to ‘carry on’ when they often had nothing.
She said: “Can we please ensure that the properties are let in a livable condition. It doesn’t cost much.
“These people come to charities where I sit on the board and they bid £500 for a rug. I would much rather give them the £500 to buy some furniture and a cooker so they can settle in and start living a life.
Tory leader Steve Bell said he was concerned to hear the council was renting homes without flooring.
The council’s executive director for housing, neighborhoods and communities, Rachel Sharpe, said: ‘We are reviewing our tenancy standards and will be looking in particular at the issue of flooring. It is something that is raised with us.
Green Councilor David Gibson, who co-chairs the council’s housing committee, said plans to build 800 new homes with genuinely affordable rents could be completed within five years instead of four.
Next year the council plans to build a further 167 social housing units, he said, while this year between 30 and 40 units are expected to be bought by tenants exercising the “right to buy”.
Last year the council bought back 105 homes previously sold under the ‘right to buy’ scheme and it intended to buy back 105 more in 2022-23.
Advisor Gibson said: “We massively exceeded the losses thanks to the right to buy. We are the first administration to achieve this. I’m incredibly proud of it.
“That’s been the backbone of what we’ve achieved during the pandemic, being able to buy and bring (houses) into council ownership and meet the huge need for housing.”
He said buying existing homes and building new ones meant the council had ‘surpassed’ all housing associations in Brighton and Hove when it came to providing affordable housing.
He said he was disappointed that Labor councilors abstained from voting on this part of the council budget because the two parties had worked together on housing policy.
Joint Labor Opposition leader John Allcock said the housing crisis was the biggest challenge facing Brighton and Hove today and he blamed the right to buy policy.
He said: ‘The Thatcher government forced local authorities to sell council housing in the millions through the right to buy, but did not allow them to use the funds to build more.
“It’s ridiculous. Before that, a large part of the population lived in social housing and paid really affordable rents.
“Social housing is affordable and avoids profits. It pays to provide good maintenance and services to support those who water and provide enough money to build more.
The council has 11,700 let properties and 2,900 let properties, with rents held in the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to cover the management and upkeep of council-owned accommodation.
The HRA has a capital investment scheme worth £85million, advisers said, with £56million earmarked for new social housing.
An additional £20 million is proposed to improve housing quality and standards.
Green councilors voted to put the Housing Income Account (HRA) budget and capital investment program for 2022-23 ahead of the annual Budget Council meeting in a fortnight. Labor and the Conservatives abstained.
The budget, including council tax, is due to be set by full council at the Brighton Center on Thursday February 24. The meeting should be broadcast on the board’s website.