Coronavirus (Covid-19) Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition Press Release and Statement
Coronavirus (Covid-19): WE CALL ON BRIGHTON & HOVE CITY COUNCIL TO ACT SWIFTLY. EVERYTHING PROPOSED HERE CAN BE DONE BY THE COUNCIL RIGHT NOW, WITH NO WAITING FOR CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND NO ADDITIONAL POWERS.
This is the largest peacetime crisis in a very long time. This is what reserves and borrowing capacity are for. In its response to the crisis the Council should not be considering balancing its budget; it should spend, with care but without limit, whatever is necessary. Financial Relief Many of our citizens will be hit very hard. In particular:
- Those with the smallest incomes are least able to stock up, and are most likely to have to pay more or go further for necessaries.
- Many people will lose their jobs as the economy crashes, many more will find their pay drastically reduced, more again will find themselves on very low sick pay.
- Many people will be thrown onto Universal Credit and will find themselves waiting five or more weeks for their first payment.
We demand that the Council:
- Provide financial and practical support for food banks to ensure they remain open and well stocked.
- Provide an immediate rent holiday for all council tenants.
- Take no enforcement action for breaches of tenancy for covid-19 related reasons.
- Increase council tax support to 100% for 2020-21.
- Increase the budget for the welfare assistance scheme and housing discretionary payments to the maximum permitted and relax criteria for making such payments in covd-19 related cases.
- Suspend all enforcement of council tax arrears and any other debts by individuals to the council and stop interest/charges accruing on outstanding debts.
- Make new generous criteria for forgiveness of all debts owed to the council in covid-19 related cases.
- Keep all Council employees on full pay during periods of self-isolation or sickness.
- If companies or organizations providing services to the Council are collapsing, the Council must immediately bring them in house, preserving both jobs and services.
Coronavirus Covid-19 is affecting our cities homeless
Our homeless citizens are most at risk in this emergency. “People experiencing homelessness are a very high-risk group [for covid-19]. Compared to the general population people experiencing homelessness are 2.5 times more likely to have asthma, 6.5 times more likely to have heart disease, 10 times more likely to have COPD and 34 times more likely to have tuberculosis” (Pathway). They cannot self-isolate on the street or in crowded substandard temporary accommodation where they must share kitchens or toilets.
- The Council should set up a crisis task-force across different Council departments and working with health authorities and police to help homeless people. They should use their influence to initiate immediate testing for the virus at all homeless services.
- Apparently if homeless people need to self-isolate they will be housed by the Council – but this is not advertised; it should be.
- Hotels with self-contained rooms are lying empty, their employees’ jobs at risk. The Council must take them over and use them to take everyone off the streets and out of insanitary accommodation immediately.
- The Council may wish to consider that there is no better time than now to ramp up its Housing First strategy.
- Homeless services must remain open in all circumstances; the pressure of the emergency must never be allowed to reduce services to the most vulnerable.
- Many new Housing Association shared ownership flats are empty. These should be used for those who need to self-isolate.
- There should be an urgent new focus on bringing empty Council-owned buildings into use.
- There must be a role for mass produced relocatable, modular, pre-fabricated mini housing units, such as those pioneered by Sussex Homeless Support.
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Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition are working cross partnership to help to eradicate homelessness and improve the way we approach housing in Brighton and Hove. We rely on donations and grants to sustain our work and enable us to campaign on issues.
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Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition