A COUNCIL new homes policy is “flawed”, misuses tenants’ rents on overly expensive build project and fails to provide affordable homes to families in desperate need, it is claimed.

Conservative and Green opposition councillors have heavily criticised rent levels for Brighton and Hove City Council’s latest housing scheme which could mean residents paying almost £1,400 a month for a large family home.

Council officers defended the scheme saying residents themselves had agreed to higher levels of rent for new build homes.

The authority’s housing and new homes committee met last week with the ambition of giving the go ahead for a terrace of six four-bedroom homes and a pair of two-bedroom flats on under-used council land in Lynchet Close, Brighton.

Council officers said the seven-person family houses had been selected as a priority because of a shortage of such homes in the city and Hollingdean area.

They described it as an easy site to develop which would be self-financing in around 40 years and could cross subsidise other schemes

Councillors were told a “cost efficient but robust design” had been selected with timber frames providing a saving but the properties would mean higher accessibility and space standards than volume housebuilders.

Conservative Councillor Steve Bell objected to the £2.55 million cost of the project meaning each home would cost £318,000 – a figure he claimed was 2.5 times higher than the private sector.

He added: “I want to see real affordable rent in this city, for us to start getting people off the streets into housing but I’m afraid this is just a joke.”

Green Councillor David Gibson said rents of £17,000 a year would swallow up a massive amount of city workers’ income.

He said: “If we were private landlords seeking to maximise income that is the approach we would take. But we’re not. We’re the council, a social landlord. Our responsibility is to provide housing to people on low incomes, that’s less than average income for people living in Brighton and Hove.”

Labour’s Tracey Hill said the city desperately needed housing like this with reports of six people forced to live in a two-bed flat and five people in a one-bed flat.

Committee members were warned deferring a decision, which had already been deferred once before, could mean added costs and delay work on the site which had been proposed.

An urgent meeting on the project will be held on June 28 to allow a decision before next month’s police, resources and growth committee.

Officers also warned that offering lower rents could mean tenants in new-build four bedroom houses were paying less than residents in two and three-bedroom properties which could open the council to legal challenge.