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tracey_h.jpgNotice of Motion – HMO landlords and business rates

Tracey Hill – Full Council 20th October 2016

Mr Mayor, as we all know, Brighton and Hove has a high number of houses of multiple occupation. This is due to a combination of factors including student numbers, high numbers of young people who move around frequently, and high rents, which mean that for many people a shared house is the only affordable way to live here.

Our HMO licensing schemes have given us a new visibility onto the HMO market, and we can see that many HMO landlords have portfolios of properties, some substantial in size. Mr Mayor, the management of HMOs in our city is a business, sometimes big business, and in our view should be taxed as such, just like shops, pubs, hotels and guest houses, all of which are subject to business rates.

HMOs are a necessary part of our housing mix. But some areas are seeing huge concentrations, and this is having a negative impact on neighbourhoods. Not all HMOs present problems: many are very well run and cause no problems at all. But in areas where the density is high, the problems are well documented. In the Lewes Road area many HMOs are student lets: councillors hear regular reports of noise in the street, late night parties and issues with refuse and recycling and end of tenancy fly-tipping.

Addressing private rented housing issues for both tenants and neighbours of tenants are a priority for this administration, which is why I am the first ever lead councillor for the private rented sector. We are determined to do everything we can with the resources available. We are stepping up planning enforcement, cooperating with the universities to address street litter, fly-tipping and noise, and through the HMO Forum finding ways to enable local people to take action.

But it all costs money and we would love to do more. Much more would be possible if we weren’t having to face the never-ending challenge of trying to do more with less.

In terms of funding, HMOs are a double whammy for the council. While the universities and students contribute enormously to the city culturally and economically, this is not a direct contribution to the council because of students’ exemption from council tax. It is right that students should not pay council tax, and in theory the council is compensated for this, but in practice the grant from government is capped, and the total cost to the council of exemptions is estimated at £5.4m a year.

Mr Mayor, some people have responded to the idea in this notice of motion by assuming that the additional costs to the landlord would be passed directly to the tenant. There is nothing inevitable about this. It’s the landlord’s decision whether to put the rent up or not. In fact, every measure to regulate the historically under-regulated buy-to-let sector is met with this same argument. The truth is that the pressure pushing rents higher and higher is not coming from regulation or tax normalisation but from ever-increasing house prices pushing up the cost of borrowing, and the same thing together with severe constraints on social housing pushing people into the private rented sector because they have no other option. There is a chronic lack of supply. Backing away from regulation and management of the sector is not the answer. The structure of the housing market in general needs to change.

With the proportion of private renters getting higher and higher, it is more important than ever that we have a more professional buy-to-let industry with investors coming in for the long term, prepared to pay their dues and reap a reasonable return over time. We need to move away from expectations of a quick buck, massive returns within one or two years which tempt some of our landlords to play fast and loose with planning regulations, pile tenants into poorly maintained properties and fail to provide a proper service. The government has indicated through the Housing and Planning Act that it is on board with a better managed private rented housing sector, and our proposal fits with this overall ambition to professionalise the buy-to-let world.

All we are asking for is a small contribution from HMO landlords to use to mitigate some of the effects their business is having. This will help HMO tenants as well as their neighbours, and even out inconsistencies in terms of who pays business rates. It may even help to reduce some of the resistance to HMOs we are hearing about today.

Mr Mayor, I am asking all members to support this notice of motion for a better managed city.

Cllr Tracey Hill's speech to full council on HMOs

Notice of Motion – HMO landlords and business rates Tracey Hill – Full Council 20th October 2016 Mr Mayor, as we all know, Brighton and Hove has a high number...

Daniel_Yates_profile.pngAt Council this Thursday 20th October, the Labour administration will be asking the other parties to back an ambitious plan for tackling HIV in the city.

Labour wants the city to become the UK’s first “Fast-Track City”, by signing the Paris Declaration of 1st November 2014, and so joining many other cities around the world from Lusaka to Melbourne to Rio.

“Fast-Track Cities” are a network of cities committed to achieving the 90:90:90 targets of 90% of people living with HIV being aware of their status, 90% of them being on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those having undetectable viral loads.

At the same time, the Labour administration has been in discussions with the Martin Fisher Foundation to try to deliver an extra legacy for the city, in memory of Martin Fisher, whose work on HIV/AIDS is known internationally.

The Foundation wants to move the city “Towards Zero” – a massive ambition for the whole city in HIV prevention – to move towards zero new HIV infections, zero HIV related deaths and zero HIV stigma.

On Thursday at Council Labour will be calling on everyone to show support for the Foundation, and to ask the Health and Wellbeing Board to consider the sustained action that might be taken to promote the “Towards Zero” campaign.

Cllr Daniel Yates, Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We want to recognise how significant a step backing the Fast-Track Cities initiative on Thursday would be - for promoting health and wellbeing in the city, and for combatting discrimination wherever we find it.  This is everyone’s community, and we need to battle for the prevention and treatment that is needed. At the same time, we want to honour the work of Martin Fisher, and would like to leave no stone unturned in moving “Towards Zero” – let’s say no to new HIV infections, no to HIV related deaths and no to HIV stigma.”

Let’s be the UK’s first Fast-Track City to tackle HIV

At Council this Thursday 20th October, the Labour administration will be asking the other parties to back an ambitious plan for tackling HIV in the city. Labour wants the city...

14591729_674301159412566_6103964126228937109_n.jpgI am enormously proud that Brighton & Hove Council, CCG and NHS have played such a key role in the launch of the new anti-stigma campaign aimed at children and young people - #IAmWhole.

Every year, around 1 in 10 children and young people experience mental health problems in the UK. That’s 3 children and young people in every school or college classroom. Children are under greater pressure than ever before, with exam stress, social media, bullying, family breakdown and financial problems are sighted as the main triggers. Here in Brighton & Hove, we have one of the highest hospital admission rates for self-harm injuries among under 18s in the country.

On the surface, it seems that young people are far more confident and open in discussing mental health then when I was growing up. But a recent report by the YMCA shows attitudes haven’t changed quickly enough.

The YMCA shows that 38% of young people surveyed had experienced some form of mental health stigma. Sadly 54% of those who felt stigmatised did so because of negative comments from their friends. This level of stigma can be incredibly isolating and in many cases stop children & young people seeking the help and support they need.

Since my diagnosis three years ago with Cyclothymia (a mild form of Bipolar Disorder) and anxiety, I have found speaking about my illness a very important part of my recovery. After years of struggling in silence, I finally got the professional help I needed and was able to ask for support from friends and colleagues, rather than just hiding away.

While the government may talk about a “commitment to improving mental health services”, these are just empty words. Over the last parliament, there was a £600m shortfall in mental health funding in the NHS. Challenging mental health stigma is only the first step in our battle to achieve the much promised “parity of esteem”. Parity of funding – for mental health beds, counselling, CAMHs and research would be a very good place to start.

If you want to get involved in #IAmWhole …
1. Challenge harmful language used to describe mental health difficulties so that young people can ask for help without fear of negative labels.
2. Ask for support from friends, parents, teachers, GPs or youth workers
3. Show support by joining the #IAMWHOLE movement on social media and posting ‘circle on hand’ selfies in support of the anti-stigma message
4. Find and get help by visiting - a mental health services directory for young people created by YMCA’s Right Here project in partnership with other local groups in Brighton & Hove. 

You can see the video here

A big thank you to Cllr Dan Yates, Cllr Pete West (Mayor of Brighton & Hove), everyone at BHCC and the CCG, and East Sussex Fire and Rescue for their support.

World mental health day

I am enormously proud that Brighton & Hove Council, CCG and NHS have played such a key role in the launch of the new anti-stigma campaign aimed at children and...

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