Yesterday Teresa May gave a speech about planning and housing building in Britain.
This comes on the back of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid’s intervention over the weekend, where he warned councils not building their fair share of housing would no longer be tolerated.
The Prime Minister talked about developers needing to “do their duty” and build more houses to prevent land-banking of sites where permission has been granted, but not yet come forward. I share the government’s determination to turn around the housing market and we support the government’s initiatives to accelerate housing delivery and progress estate regeneration.
I welcome the government’s focus on this as it is a key policy area for Bristol, and the country as a whole. Bristol is a prosperous city, but, like many cities, we have inherited a housing crisis.
The effects of this crisis are impacting those young people unable able to get their first step on the housing ladder or even afford places to rent. It causes instability in those families struggling to make ends meet as they trade off food, against heat against rent. It undermines our communities as people are shifted around the cities as tenancies are ended in order to move in tenants able to pay higher rents. We know that the biggest cause of people becoming homeless is evictions from the private rented sector. And we have the challenge of gentrification giving rise to social tensions. There is huge pressure on our council housing. In Bristol we have 11,489 applications on the Home Choice council housing register waiting list.
I have worked with the Core Cities to take the initiative in meeting this challenge. Together we have clearly set out to government the housing we could deliver given the right policy and resource support. We pointed out that over the last year councils nationally granted nearly twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed. As Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association has said “no-one can live in a planning permission.” We have made the case that housing is more than a wall and roof. It is the key policy tool for health, education and employment and getting it right reduces the demand on all the public services that are required to come in to play when society fails.
We are committed to delivering new homes. One of my key objectives as Mayor is to deliver 2000 new homes per year, of which 800 should be affordable, by 2020. I am confident that through the work Paul Smith and Nicola Beech are doing with our officers and in partnership with Homes England, we are going to reach this target.
However, there remain a number of challenges, some particular to Bristol and others shared across the Core Cities, to accelerating the delivery of new homes. To achieve this we are asking government for action on the following:
Stalled Sites: We want to partner government in its review on stalled permissions. Across our cities we have unbuilt permissions amounting to around three years-worth of housing units at current delivery rates.
Social Housing: Powers and resources to build. Councils have the ability to borrow money for commercial projects but not the equivalent powers to borrow for residential building projects.
Welfare Reform: The links between welfare reforms, homelessness and rough sleeping are evident in our cities. We have examples, particularly on the impacts of changes to Housing Benefits and Universal Credit roll-out, where, with some local adjustments and interventions across a wider range of public services, outcomes could be improved and long-term costs reduced.
Private Rental Sector: Ensuring proper regulation and supporting tenant’s rights, as well as incentivising specialist housing within this sector as part of a comprehensive Housing Deal for a place, linked to local demographic needs.