A chief executive has hit back at a damning magazine article which labelled his charity’s innovative use of shipping containers to house the homeless as “a get-rich scheme”.
Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) boss Andy Winter said he was “saddened” by the piece in Vice magazine which claimed that there was heavy use of drugs and violent incidents at the new homeless sheltered scheme.
Mr Winter described the article about the shipping containers based in Richardson’s Yard in Brighton as consisting of “inaccuracies and sensational reporting”.
In the Vice article, published on Friday, reporter James Rippingale claimed he had sneaked into the shipping container yard off New England Road to spend the night with residents after BHT banned all journalists from accessing the site until next month.
They reported residents complaining about the chronic cold because of failing heaters, heavy use of drugs, violent incidents and a lack of security.
He said the site was not so much a solution to Brighton’s homelessness problem as a “lucrative stop-gap while the regeneration industry pauses for breath”.
The site opened in December to provide housing for up to 36 people in a joint project between BHT and Brighton- based developer QED Estates.
In a response posted yesterday, Mr Winter said he wanted to put the record straight on a “number of errors” in the report.
He said accusations of expensive rents were wrong as the £650 a month cost was among the bottom 30% of rents in the city and were covered by housing bene¬ fit.
Responding to the claims of violence, he said the trust had only “a very few number of incidents that have been reported” and that “robust management action” had been taken.
In terms of drug dealing, Mr Winter said there had been one allegation when a non-resident tried to sell drugs on the site and that the trust had “no tolerance for drug dealing”.
But he did concede there were problems on the site: “The heating is the one area where we have not got it right.
“The ceramic panels have not been fit for purpose which is why alternative heating solutions were made available to tenants, why we provided some free elec¬ tricity to residents at the coldest point of the winter, and why we reduced the cost of heating to residents by one sixth of the market cost.”
Vice reporter James Rippingale said: "I appreciate fully that this is a new venture, still in its infant phase, with problems such as heating and security being worked out on the wing.
"Whilst I genuinely believe that there exists a positive formula in the initiative, and that Brighton Housing Trust should not carry the brunt of criticism, its five-year lifespan and the limited time in which it will be operational does not provide a tangible, long-term solution for re-housing Brighton's homeless at all.
"Whilst Brighton's growing housing crisis is a very real problem, particularly for those with a history of homelessness, where have we come to when a property developer such as QED can legitimately charge £650 per month to live in a shipping container?"