Happy new year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas break, and wish you all the best for 2018.
I’d like to start the year off by talking about housing. It’s been in the news a lot recently, and is a major issue in Bristol, whether you rent, own, want to own, or are living on the streets.
Labour is committed to tackling the housing crisis in our city. This is a crisis which has grown dramatically since we have had the Tory and Tory-Lib Dem coalition governments. Since benefit cuts in 2012 homelessness in Bristol has risen six-fold. Labour in Bristol has committed £220m over the next five years to get the city building 800 affordable homes per year by 2020. This is the manifesto pledge we made in 2016: for 2000 homes to be built a year in the city by 2020, 800 of which will be affordable. We’re well on our way to meeting these targets.
Labour has and is making major changes in housing in Bristol, and here are just a few key examples:
- The Lib Dems and George Ferguson after them had a programme of selling off older empty council housing by auction. They said they were too expensive to repair. Labour has repaired many of these and they are being rented out again. Furthermore, with 26 of them the council could not afford the works to repair them, so they’ve been leased rent-free to homeless and specialist housing charities to help with the homelessness problem in Bristol.
- Labour has taken 80 hectares of Council-owned land off of the market so that we can control how it is developed.
- The Lib Dems set up a scheme for larger empty properties to be occupied by commercial ‘property guardian’ companies. Labour is making such empty buildings available to a homeless charity.
- Labour has started the largest council housing building programme in the city since the 1980s. This is mainly on small sites dotted around Bristol but also includes a development of 130 new homes in Ashton.
- Labour has increased the grant fund for housing associations to build affordable homes on private developments from £3m to £57m.
- Labour has reduced the number of empty council homes at any one time from 550 to 340 homes. This was rising by 50 per year under the Lib Dems and George Ferguson, but we’ve reduced it by 210 in less than two years.
- Labour is expanding the regulation of private landlords with plans to expand licensing to most shared housing, in addition to area-based schemes in localities where the housing conditions are worst.
- Labour has attracted new funding to provide a housing first service for rough sleepers with the most complex needs. This will ensure that they have intensive support as well as somewhere to live.
- Labour is working with churches in the city to provide cold weather shelters in church halls during winter.
There is, of course, always more that can be done to improve the housing situation, and we won’t rest until the housing crisis is eradicated altogether. All of these changes are good headway though, and work in tandem with the policies that the next Labour government will introduce to ensure that we have Secure Homes for All.