The housing crisis can be addressed if two key principles are addressed: supply and affordability. It is obvious, I know.
In the past I have, wrongly, called for an approach that based on ‘build, build, build’. No longer. With the shortage of land in places like Brighton and Hove, it is what is built, and it must be affordable.
The phrase ‘affordable’ has been corrupted by government, which uses the phrase in the context of rented accommodation as 80% of the market. That means in this city rents of £784.80 a month for a one bed flat are regarded as ‘affordable’. A flat costing £784.80 is more affordable than one where the rent is at the average charged (£971 per month).
Most developers are, understandable, attracted by securing the maximum return on their investment. They are risking huge sums of money, and they want a return on their investment consummate with that risk.
But that does nothing to help the housing crisis. Homes for sale in the city have long been beyond the means of many local people. I was on BBC Radio 5 Live recently discussing the housing situation in Brighton. On the programme was a self-employed plumber who has been struggling for years to buy his own place. I think he said he is in his early 40s, works hard and determined.
In parts of Battersea in south London (SE11, SW11, and SW8) the number of properties available to rent has increased by 28.1% since the beginning of the year. This has led to a 6% decrease in rents being charged over the same period.
Now most of these properties are buy-to-let investments, and will beyond the means of ordinary people. But the lesson is important. If we can develop homes for rent with a mix of social and ‘affordable’ rents, then the market will begin to readjust, and the hopelessness experienced by many renters will be eased.