Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Housing in Bristol under Marvin Rees

Last autumn, a key election pledge by the mayor on affordable homes bit the dust, making headlines. But what else do the numbers say about Rees’s record, and the council’s ongoing housing crisis headaches?

housing Bristol

Last September, four months after a planned election could have already reinstated him if a pesky virus hadn’t put it on hold, a famous 2016 campaign-trail pledge by Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees came to bite him on the arse.

A council committee report confirmed that in 2020-21, our local authority area would be getting nowhere near the 800 new affordable homes Rees promised to deliver annually by then. New figures reveal, in fact, that of the 1,350 to 1,994 homes that were completed each year in Bristol in the four years from 2016/17 to 2019/20, only between 188 and 312 each year were affordable.

Blaming the pandemic’s impact on construction, the document set a new “stretch target” of 500 affordable homes during 2020-21, which is likely to be “almost met” thanks to a forecasted 489 completions. In a deft bit of expectation management, it adds that house building targets are often influenced by a 20% “optimism bias” – meaning 389 affordable homes – below half of Rees’s target – is more realistic.

Still, the report goes on, a minimum of 797 more affordable homes should be added in 2021-22, and at least 1,028 in 2022-23. The council’s recently departed housing chief, Paul Smith, told the Cable’s Bristol Unpacked podcast in September the missed target should be seen as delay, not failure, given the state of 2020 and other non-Covid factors beyond the authority’s control.

Housing dominated Bristol’s last mayoral campaign – those pledges were important because the city’s affordability crisis took hold during George Ferguson’s tenure, with asking prices and rent levels spiralling. In April 2016, a Cable investigation revealed the council had flogged off hundreds of knackered but irreplaceable period homes, a practice that controversially continued under Ferguson, sparking anger just before the election.

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

Smith stopped that, with about 100 properties refurbished and put back into use as regular council homes or homeless accommodation, or handed over to specialist charities. This was possibly made easier because a plan developed by David Cameron’s government, which would have forced councils to sell their most valuable houses, was scrapped after Theresa May took over as prime minister.

Central government policy shackles councils’ ability to tackle local housing crises, and just before Christmas the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee described the national landscape of the last few years as a “deplorable… cycle of policy invention, abandonment and reinvention”.

Given that tough context, and with housing set to be just as hot an issue when the election rolls back round – mutant-coronavirus permitting – here we attempt a measured look at Rees-era progress and the challenges the next mayor, whoever they are, will face.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?

Comments

Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

  • The council should sell off some of its more expensive housing. A friend of mine is living around the downs and his council house is worth over £500k. This could be sold a two houses bought else where

    Reply

  • Marvin Rees should be out of office as he’s had his time and has done nothing for Southmead and taken away open space in clen coo square and shutting off the shopping area and putting in flower beds which is a waste of money and time and this will be destroyed by the young ones who don’t give a dum.why don’t they build down at henbury as there is plenty of space behind the flats and Aldi plus he bury hill instead of wasting the statures in place here why not repair the roads around here which is in disrepair and the concrete badly breaking up

    Reply

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Watchdog finds ‘serious failings’ after concluding council does not know what state its housing is in

Bristol City Council has been called out by a government regulator for not meeting new quality standards, with thousands of repairs and damp and mould cases long overdue for action and many safety check records missing.

#Cable10Years: three campaigns the Cable fought and won

For our 10th birthday we're collecting some of our best work. Here we highlight some campaigns the Cable has run to improve people's lives in the city, and how you can help us continue by supporting our work.

‘This is long overdue’: campaigning high-rise residents promised action to improve their homes

After years of living in crumbling, leaking housing, and putting pressure on the council to take action, people in neglected blocks of flats at St Jude's hope change is finally coming.

‘Prison felt safer than the streets’: why women’s homelessness needs to be better understood

From rough sleeping to overstretched waiting lists for a social home, women in Bristol and beyond are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis – but their needs are often not recognised.

Revealed: Building owner ‘abandons’ leaseholders trapped in unsafe Brislington flats

Orchard House residents took matters into their own hands to force the building owner to carry out remediation works, under powers brought in after the Grenfell tragedy. But as the legal deadline nears, little progress has been made.

Inclusive or exclusive: can community-led housing schemes provide for people most in need?

In recent years Bristol has seen the development of several new community-led housing schemes, which are often driven by small resident groups – but also aim to house people in need of a social home. How is the model working out – and with funds shrinking, does it have a future?

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning