We need to address Horsham’s housing needs.
A recent Freedom of Information response from Horsham District Council revealed that there are 52 people classed as homeless in Horsham and 2 rough sleepers. Whilst Horsham Labour Party is pleased to see that the number of rough sleepers has fallen from 4 to 2 since we submitted our last inquiry in August 2021, we are concerned that the homeless figure has increased from 47 to 52. This is despite Cllr. Youtan, cabinet member for housing, assuring us that the council was fully committed to assisting those that are homeless or facing homelessness. The FOI response also revealed that there were 685 people on Horsham Council’s housing register in February 2022. Access to the housing register is only available to those whose current housing provision fails to meet their housing needs. It appears from these figures that there are increasing numbers of people in Horsham who are inadequately housed and the housing crisis is worsening.
Horsham District Council’s website advises that ‘ the demand for social and affordable rented housing in the Horsham District exceeds supply’. This is clearly the key reason for the worsening figures. We would not have been in this position if the council had ensured that supply kept up with demand by requiring developers to deliver affordable housing at the appropriate rate. Had they done so, Cllr. Youtan, would clearly be in a better position to assist the homeless and those facing homelessness.
We note that in a recent election leaflet the Lib Dems claimed that there was some prospect of improvement in the situation. They claimed that, in response to a report by Shelter on the need across the country for genuinely affordable social housing, they have managed to achieve agreement that a minimum of 35 percent of affordable homes built under the new local plan will be for social rent. They proclaimed this as some kind of major achievement. We regret to point out to the Lib Dems that this simply is not good enough. Shelter says that the number of social rent homes needed is 50 percent of new homes. The average rate of genuinely affordable housing that has been achieved on new developments in Horsham in recent years is approximately 18 percent. If 35 percent of this were to be delivered as social rent, as the Lib Dems have proposed, this would equate to only 6 percent of the total homes built, i.e, on a development of 2000 homes only 120 would be for social rent. This is well below the 50 percent that Shelter has called for, and well below the level required to address current local need, as evidenced by the 685 applicants on the housing register.
It is time that the Conservative responsible for managing housing need in Horsham, and the Lib Dems who have a role in challenging the Tories’ record on delivery, took this matter seriously. Shelter has identified that the broken housing system in this country has created a housing emergency. They have called for urgent action. We, therefore, challenge the Conservatives and Lib Dems to recognise the extent of the housing emergency in our area and to ensure that, in line with Shelter’s demands, 50 percent of new homes are for social rent and that the housing emergency locally is addressed.