Community Housing Network initial response to the city wide Housing Strategy

Brighton and Hove City Council is consulting on its city-wide Housing Strategy. Below is a response sent in by Diana Bernhardt at Seaside Community Homes on behalf of members of the Community Housing Network.

(The Community Housing Network is a network of local housing and community organisations whose key aim is to increase the supply of community housing options to meet local need. It’s members include Brighton Housing Trust, Sussex Central YMCA, Southdown Housing Association, Co-operative Housing in Brighton and Hove, Brighton and Hove Seaside Community Homes, Age UK Brighton and Hove, and Phases. The network was the brainchild of Helen Russell of CHIBAH).

The need for a new approach
Brighton & Hove faces significant challenges over the coming years to meet its affordable housing targets with high demand across all tenures, significantly reduced subsidy and limited space available for development.

Meeting these targets requires an ambitious regeneration and capital programme. However, the reduction in government subsidies has driven many Housing Associations upmarket to provide housing at market rent levels, to require deposits, rent in advance and in some instances to exclude tenants who are unemployed. This has left a gap in the provider landscape and a question: Who will house the poor and those who cannot afford ‘affordable rents? ’.The Community Housing Sector is ready to fill this gap

The Community Housing Sector Offer
Innovation – The community housing model is flexible and dynamic, providing greater opportunities for innovation and creativity.
Cohesion – Community housing can bring people together to develop solutions. It empowers communities so that they become more self-sufficient and integrated.
Diversity – The sector can tailor solutions to meet the diversity of need in the whole community. It can offer a variety of models and funding solutions including local, not-for-profit specialist housing organisations, Co-operative Housing, Self-help Housing, Group or Community Self-Build, Community Land Trusts, Co-housing, Mutual Home Ownership and Housing related Community Interest Companies.

The need for a level playing field
In order for a level playing field for the Community Housing Sector, three key things are needed; Equality, Recognition and Transparency:

Equality of Opportunity
The Registered Providers on the Brighton & Hove Development Partnership have undertaken the majority of affordable housing development over the past few years.
This partnership must be opened up to providers in the Community Housing Sector in order to create a level playing field and equality of opportunity for the smaller organisations.

In order to address the imbalance, The Community Housing Sector could also use additional support and advice to develop proposals and be given an opportunity to have proposals considered.

Recognition
The Community Housing Sector is a broad church of organisations and models that deserves to be recognised as a sector in its own right. It is able to fill the gap left by the commercialisation of Housing Associations and is able to offer different funding solutions to meeting housing needs at genuinely affordable rents.

This needs to be recognised in the Housing Strategy along with a commitment from BHCC to work in partnership with the Community Housing Sector.

Transparency
We need a transparent information sharing and decision making process.

We need BHCC to identify all publically owned land and buildings that could be potential development sites, including an indication of the type of development features that the council would be looking for from the site.

We need to know in advance how and when decisions will be made on housing developments and a realistic timetable for submitting proposals.

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