Today the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, Andy Winter, is celebrating his 35th anniversary with the organisation. He says that the level of uncertainty today is greater than at any time during his professional career and that a radical rethink in housing policy is required if we are to tackle the housing crisis.

We are experiencing a greater level of uncertainty than at any time in my thirty five years working for Brighton Housing Trust. The uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the inevitable consequences for the public finances, means that it is difficult to see decisions being made ten days ahead, let alone ten years ahead.

But if we are to tackle the housing crisis, we need housing policy that looks not just a decade ahead but twenty five years or more.

There seems to be a lack of direction regarding housing with tried and failed policies being prioritised over a proper investment in homes with social rents. I am less confident that there will be sensible investment in social housing.

Responsibility for our current housing crisis is due to under investment by successive governments and the collusion of some larger housing associations that have drifted far from their original purpose of providing low-cost homes.

Too many housing associations offer homes on a shared ownership basis but this means that the occupiers have to pay a rent but they take huge responsibilities for the upkeep of their homes.

There are those in desperate circumstances today for whom no solution is being put forward. Starter homes, Help to Buy, and the Right to Buy does nothing for those on the housing waiting list, or those in overcrowded accommodation, or those who are homeless and sleeping rough. It appeals to nothing more than a short term political agenda.

I would love to see the government setting out a 25 year housing strategy that saw proper investment into a massive house building program, not homes for sale but for rent with social rents.

It makes sense on a human level that people have somewhere that they can afford to rent, it makes sense economically since low rents in the social sector makes less demands on housing benefit and pays for itself over time, and it makes sense environmentally if these homes are carbon neutral.

Until there is such an approach, the situation will continue to get worse and future generations will look back in despair at the short-sightedness of our current political leaders.

My most pressing concerns, however, are twofold: what happens to those people who have been accommodated during the lockdown, and what will happen now that the eviction ban is being lifted?

The government is throwing money at various measures but it is not being done in a way that will produce best value for money. Some good will come from the investment but I believe we could achieve much better value for money if there was a clear strategy on what works. We are witnessing a lottery where some authorities and some providers receive funding whereas others, who do not fit neatly into the government’s narrow parameters, receive nothing. However, it is these organisations that usually innovate and can respond in a flexible way to achieve the best possible return on investment.

There are, sadly, too many people who still remain resistant to alternative means of construction including the use of converted shipping containers. We have demonstrated in Brighton how successful and cost-effective these can be and I am delighted that a number of local authorities around the country are now having the foresight to develop similar schemes. I only regret that local authorities in Sussex continue to appear to be so reluctant to engage with a solution that clearly works.

With the lifting of the eviction ban, we can expect to see a large number of notices being served. I do have concerns that, given that landlords must now normally serve a six month notice, we could see an increase in attempts to illegally evict tenants. That is why independent advice is so important.

The best way to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping is through prevention which is why BHT is adopting the slogan #EndItBeforeItBegins.

I am particularly proud of our advice centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. Last year they prevented 927 households from becoming homeless.

When I look back over the last 35 years I am so proud of what BHT has become. For half that time it grew under the leadership of my predecessor, Jenny Backwell, and I have been proud to have led the organisation for the last 17 and a half years. During this time we have grown considerably and expanded our work, party through the development of new services but also by merging with other fantastic organisations such as Sussex Oakleaf, the Hastings Community Housing Association, the Whitehawk Inn and Threshold Women’s Counselling Service.

I have been fortunate to have worked with some exceptional colleagues who should take most of the credit for what we have achieved. Notwithstanding the uncertainty of these times, I believe that BHT has an exciting future where we can continue to change lives across Sussex.