THE number of homeless people housed outside Brighton has more than halved since last year – and a housing boss this week pledged to reduce it to pre-pandemic levels.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing committee was told there are currently 122 people housed in Eastbourne and Lewes district.

Interim assistant director of housing Martin Reid said September’s numbers were 40 per cent down on the 205 outside the city in February.

There was a peak of 330 last year after the council scrambled to find places for rough sleepers shortly after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In February, a senior member of Eastbourne Borough Council said this  “unacceptable” practice was making it harder for Eastbourne to house its own rough sleepers.

Conservative councillor Mary Mears said Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell has twice raised the issue of Brighton and Hove homeless being housed in the town in the House of Commons.

Cllr Mears said: “They’ve got their own financial problems. They want to open up Eastbourne for their tourism and hotels. This is our problem. It’s one we have. Although we’ve been putting people out to different areas, in Newhaven and all sorts, it’s too far out of the city for people to be put into when they can’t access proper facilities.

“For us, it’s really about a priority to bring back into the city those we are responsible for.”

Mr Reid said the council was committed to reducing its out-of-area placements, particularly “spot purchase” when it books places night by night.

The Argus: Caroline Ansell brought up the issue in the House of CommonsCaroline Ansell brought up the issue in the House of Commons

He said: “We still wish to get down to pre-pandemic levels, which is around 75.

“That’s not OK but we’ll always have some use of out-of-area. Certainly, we are committed to reducing it significantly, and I think we’re demonstrating that.”

The council brought in 369 people who were sleeping on the streets or otherwise homeless at the start of the first national lockdown.

It is still trying to find suitable longer-term housing for 167 of those people.

READ MORE: Three homeless people die after being sent to live in Eastbourne

Since March last year, the council has sent back 149 homeless people to where they have stronger local links.

Green and Labour councillors voted for a package of measures worth about £8 million to provide housing and support for homeless people.

These include approving a capital budget of £2.8 million, financed by £700,000 from the government and borrowing of £2.1 million to be repaid from rents, to buy 12 homes where “higher need” rough sleepers will be given support and a capital budget of £3.24 million to buy 30 properties on ten-year leases to deliver “rapid rehousing”.

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