It’s situated at the heart of the city centre, walking distance from the Clock Tower and the North Laine – a much sought after location. Sadly, the experience for many of those housed at Windsor Court, is not a happy one.
Since being elected it’s the building I’ve been contacted about most and I’ve visited a number of my constituents there over the past few years. Each of the rooms I’ve seen has been damp, dark, and depressing. The inner courtyard reminds me of a prison with the metal staircases and floors that run off it.
The original building was built around 1882 and it was adapted and refurbished over three decades ago in 1984. Whilst 6 properties were converted to make them wheelchair accessible 5 years ago, it would appear that very little work has been carried out over the years to maintain the property and the individual rooms.
So why does Brighton and Hove City Council continue to house so many vulnerable people there? It’s a question I’ve asked many times.
Sadly, the only answer seems to be because it’s all there is available. It’s increasingly not uncommon for the Council to house local residents in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation in Eastbourne or Worthing - simply because affordable accommodation in the city cannot be found. With so few options available Windsor Court continues to be used for temporary and emergency accommodation as it’s seen by the Council as a slightly preferable option to bed and breakfast accommodation elsewhere – albeit a far from ideal option.
Windsor Court is privately owned so the Council lease it from a private landlord, Baron Homes, who profit from the arrangement. I’ve repeatedly urged the council to put pressure on the landlord to improve conditions, or to simply not renew the agreement at all.
More recently I’ve been pressing the Council to increase security at the block and address access issues, as I’ve been made aware of a number of worrying incidents that have occurred there. I’m pleased to hear that the Interim Head of Housing at the Council will be visiting Windsor Court in person this week to see for himself the types of problems I’ve been describing.
And while I don’t believe Windsor Court is a suitable building to house many of the vulnerable residents living there, the real fault lies with the Government, and policies it has introduced which serve to exacerbate the housing crisis and make more households at risk of homelessness.
Policies such as changes to Housing Benefit, including the Housing Benefit cap introduced, which makes it harder for councils to find homeless families affordable accommodation in their local area.
Housing will remain a priority in my parliamentary work as it’s such a key issue locally. It's the reason why last summer I launched my Housing Charter, outlining the steps that I believe would improve the housing situation both locally and nationally. You can read more about the changes I'm calling for here:http://www.carolinelucas.com/assets/files/localparties/brighton/publications/Caroline/Caroline%20Lucas%20Housing%20Charter%20%282%29.pdf.