FAMILIES will be priced-out of council homes being built for them unless rents are reduced, opposition councillors have warned.
Green and Conservative councillors are calling for lower rents at eight new homes planned for Brighton.
Housing committee member Steve Bell described the council’s proposals as a “joke”, calling for council officers to join the real world and not design “white elephant” projects beyond the reach of residents.
The business case for the £2.5 million council housebuilding project will come before the new homes and housing committee tonight. [Wednesday]
A terrace of six four-bedroom town houses and a pair of two-bedroom flats are proposed for an open space in Lynchet Close opposite Hollingdean Park.
The homes would be the largest under New Homes for Neighbourhoods which has seen 34 homes for affordable rent already completed, 131 under construction, 12 with planning permission and more than 100 in the pipeline.
Housing officers said they prioritised large family homes for the site to meet a “particular need” for large, affordable rented homes in Hollingdean.
The authority said the scheme would be funded by Right to Buy receipts and borrowing supported on rents without the need for subsidies from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).
The council report said the project offered good value for money compared with previous schemes and national construction rates but conceded there could be issues with affordability because of the £20,000 benefit cap.
Officers have drawn up three proposals with weekly rents for the four-bedroom homes, ranging from £339.34 to £233.84 and £192.48 for the flats, but councillors warned it would leave families earning the National Living Wage with just £60 for all other costs.
Cllr Bell said a sensible approach was needed to ensure council housing projects delivered value for money and met the “desperate need” for social housing.
He added: “The housing department needs to get out in the real world and engage with these families and design homes which are affordable.
“Maybe it’s time to close down these in-house departments and look to external designers who can produce affordable schemes and not waste HRA monies on white elephants which most of our tenants will not be able to afford.”
Cllr David Gibson, Green housing spokesman, said: “We will always want to ensure that the costs are driven down but all of the current proposals create a surplus within the first four years and a bigger surplus after 30 years.
“We want to reduce that surplus to make these homes truly affordable.
“At the current levels, if families suffer any sort of hardship, if they lose their job, they are going to be stuffed.”
A council spokesman said: “The new homes are designed to the council’s affordable housing brief requirements to meet the needs of those with highest priority for council housing.
“In addition, all of our developments are assessed and benchmarked for value for money by independent quantity surveyors.”