Smashing our targets

I will talk more about housing in my State of the City address on Wednesday evening, but I wanted to highlight the work we are delivering on one of my key pledges: We will build 2,000 homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020.

It was certainly an ambitious target and it is possibly the most high profile of my seven pledges.

But as the Bristol Post reported in September with the headline ‘Marvin set to smash his housing target’ we are on target to not only achieve, but exceed that target. I have worked closely with my cabinet lead, Paul Smith and the housing team to ensure we meet our target in our priority ambition to tackle the housing crisis.

By 2020 we are expecting to have delivered 2,469 homes, of which 916 will be affordable. The gross number is almost 25 per cent higher than the original 2,000 target.

On top of that, we are building homes for people and families and making huge strides in delivering affordable housing. Affordable housing is a particularly acute problem for Bristol. In 2016 Bristol, based on a ratio of earnings and average house prices, came out as the least affordable place to buy a home in all the Core Cities.

Earnings could be higher but in Bristol the problem has been the housing supply. Low housing completion numbers means higher house prices; at £276,000 the Bristol average price is almost £40,000 higher than the national average. Nationally, since 2007 average house prices have increased by 24%, but in Bristol, over the same period they have increased by 43% – almost 20% more. By building more homes we are on the way to changing this trend.

When I came in there was no existing affordability programme in place, but now we can look at a pipeline of delivery:

  • During 2016/17 199 affordable homes were built
  • By the end of the 2017/18 year we expect to have built 271affordable homes
  • And by the end of 2020 we expect 916 affordable homes to have been delivered.

This is particularly impressive given that these homes have been delivered from a standing start. These numbers are testament to the significance we have placed on delivering housing and the willingness of key partners to work with us.

It is not just about numbers, this morning I talked at the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living Annual General Meeting about how important it is that we design better housing that can adapt to an ageing population and needs disabled of disabled people, for example, in the current review of the BCC Local Plan my administration is proposing increasing the percentage of new homes that are wheelchair accessible from 2% to 10%.

An example of our approach is the Housing Festival which is launching next week, to find innovative solutions to affordable housing and drive these numbers even higher.

The launch will feature exhibits including full-size modular homes from Zed Pods, Totally Modular and Tempo Housing, and a shipping container conversion from ISO Spaces and Help the Homeless. The Festival is about turning the city into a living exhibition of the latest approaches to housing and finding the best ways of tackling our housing crisis. We want innovators to come to forward with creative solutions to help our approach, but also show government Bristol’s determination to lead and deliver on one of our key priorities.

These numbers, and this ramping up of delivery, is not just about homes, but about communities too. Good housing can solve wider social challenges including social isolation and mental health issues. Good housing is key for Bristol’s success to be shared by all.

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