The Housing and New Homes Committee of Brighton and Hove City Council will later today consider proposals for 58 homes on the site of the former Whitehawk Library. It is proposed that 58 apartments with balconies will be built in two four storey brick buildings, including ten wheelchair accessible homes.
Of course I really welcome the building by the City Council of new homes for rent, especially if they can be at rents that local people can afford.
But there is a funding issue. According to today’s Brighton Argus, “the homes will require more than £1 million annual subsidy from the council’s housing revenue account.”
If this is the case, I do hope officers have explore all the alternatives to achieve the housing objectives, not just the standard and unimaginative alternative that some homes could be for sale.
In particular, I hope they have looked at arrangements such as that entered into by Lewes District Council with KSD Homes, in that case a modest development of two homes but which could be scaled up for this site.
The advantage of the Lewes DC / KSD model is that the land remains in the ownership of the Council, there is no public subsidy in year one or in any subsequent years, the Council has 100% nomination rights, and the new homes have rents that people on low incomes can truly afford. In the Lambert Place development in Lewes, the rent for a two bed home is just £95 per week.
Because of the mixed ownership arrangement at Lambert Place – the land is owned by the Council, the homes by KSD – the Right to Buy does not apply.
I am sure that the officers have fully appraised that scheme and will be presenting the pros and cons to Councillors today before they are asked to make a final decision on what is a more costly scheme.
If the Lewes scheme has not been fully appraised, or is not being presented as the viable option I believe it to be, then the officers will be failing in their responsibilities.
I hope that Councillors on the Housing and New Homes Committee will seriously consider the cost and level of subsidy that this proposal contains since there are alternatives available.
Land in the City is scarce. We must get the best value from it.