Council leader Nancy Platts and leader of the opposition Phélim Mac Cafferty have written to the government’s homelessness czar Dame Louise Casey calling for support from the Rough Sleeping Taskforce to end homelessness.
The request follows a submission to the Housing, Communities & Local Government Select Committee inquiry on the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector, and a meeting with the MHCLG about closer working on the next phase of accommodating rough sleepers.
Working together to tackle the housing crisis
The council’s Labour and Green groups have pledged to work together on a joint programme to tackle the city’s housing crisis.
The letter sets out the council’s support for the work of the taskforce and the ambition to ensure that all rough sleepers accommodated across the country during the Covid-19 crisis are successfully supported into sustainable long-term accommodation.
The government’s proactive approach to helping the council move people into safe accommodation during the public health crisis is also welcomed in the letter.
The response outlines some of the local challenges, opportunities and solutions that could be applied nationwide to ensure homelessness is ended for good in the UK.
The immediate challenge is to keep homeless people safe, support them into sustainable accommodation and a secure life, and ensure rough sleepers do not return to the streets after lockdown.
The immediate concern is what happens to the homeless people being accommodating when the public health crisis is over.
This number continues to grow and now stands at around 400 people. The people supported include those who might otherwise be in hostels with shared facilities, those who might need to resort to sleeping rough and homeless people continuing to arrive in the city.
The regular engagement achieved over the past few months has given some homeless people a route to a more secure lifestyle and hope for a better future.
It’s not clear on how long this window of opportunity will last and our immediate objective is to start moving people to more sustainable accommodation.
Adopting the Housing First model
The Covid-19 crisis response has provided an opportunity to develop a long-term solution to homelessness, and the ask is for the ‘Housing First’ model to be adopted nationally.
This is an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based support people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.
There is an emerging opportunity to apply the Housing First model to Brighton & Hove by securing accommodation in the city which may now be empty.
The ask is for government to provide more money to fund this approach and capital funding to allow us to purchase buildings.
The letter also urges the government to:
- introduce a ‘living rent’ cap for landlords
- extend the time local authorities have to use Right to Buy receipts from three to at least five years.
- allow us to increase the percentage of Right to Buy receipts we can use on new homes and to allow us to retain 100% of those receipts
- to extend the moratorium on evictions
- introduce national legislation to give local authorities rent control powers to cap rents in high rent areas like Brighton & Hove
- to raise the £3500 cap on what landlords are required to spend upgrading their properties to the required Energy Performance Certificate level and provide grants or loans to help them achieve this.
There is also a request for additional government funding to expand work to help tenants sustain their tenancies and prevent homelessness.
Essential to build on the good work
Councillor Nancy Platts, leader of the council, said: “It is essential that government see their funding as an investment, and build on all the good work that’s taken place during lockdown to help homeless people on the path to a secure life with a place they can call home.
“During the public health crisis, we have been able to give some homeless people hope for a better future and it would be morally wrong to take that away.
“No resident, business or visitor to Brighton & Hove wants to see people desperate and living on the streets, we all want people to have a safe home to go to.
“The Labour and Green councillors are now asking government to make the most of that initial investment and support us to implement the Housing First model until we eradicate homelessness for good in our city.”
Tackling the homelessness crisis
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, leader of the opposition, said: “Before the Covid-19 crisis, homelessness was routinely described by government ministers as something so difficult it couldn’t be resolved. But they proved at the start of the crisis that actually this is about political decisions. The possibility of that welcome support disappearing is not an option.
“We cannot go back to pretending that homelessness in our city is normal – in the sixth richest country, it is a disgrace. And we are keen to ensure that everyone who was sleeping rough is supported into suitable, long-term accommodation.
“We believe the most effective approach to solve the UK’s homelessness crisis is the Housing First model, which works on the basis that the first thing to do is to get homeless people off the streets, and into secure accommodation, so that they can receive support and work towards rebuilding their lives.
“This approach is proven to help even those with the most complex needs – and we call on the government to adopt it fully around the country.
“Both the Green Party and Labour Party have expressed a shared goal to tackle the city’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and this work is now a priority for the council.
“We are jointly calling on the government to support our efforts, so that more people can access safe, secure housing in the city.”