More than bricks and mortar

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes (and Lead Member for Children’s Services).

Housing is one of great challenges in our city and wider society right now. Affordable housing, quality of housing, security of housing and ending homelessness are all key issues for us in Bristol, and Mayor Rees has repeatedly clarified the commitment of this administration to build 2,000 new homes (800 of which are affordable) per year. We are on track to hit that target next year, and in doing so, have delivered 150 new council homes with over a thousand more in the pipeline. 

My intention, in combining responsibility for housing with my other cabinet duties for families and children’s services, is to ensure that people are at the heart of the work we do. It sounds simple, but managing our housing stock, homelessness and our relationship with private landlords and tenants is about building an effective system that is fair and that benefits residents while also being mindful of their individual stories. 

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 and lockdown means a ripple effect of serious economic and societal problems. As I write, many people need a safety net as they navigate the consequences of the pandemic, and a possible second wave, on their families and livelihoods. 

Despite this, yesterday (Sunday), the ban on evictions that was designed to protect renters during the pandemic was lifted. This means that at a time when so many families are concerned about their health, finances and the imminent end of the furlough scheme, there is a new concern. 

Housing charity Shelter have warned that as many as 322,000 renters may have fallen into arrears during lockdown, with more economic uncertainty to come for many families. 

Despite protests from housing charities, councils and opposition parties, including Bristol MP and Shadow Minister for Housing, Thangam Debonnaire, the government has decided to go ahead with the end of ban.  

What does this mean for renters? Some protections are still in place, especially for those facing eviction because of rent arrears. 

  • Landlords need to give 6 months’ notice of eviction (except in cases of Anti-Social Behaviour or Domestic Abuse where the notice period can be shorter)
  • Most landlords will be issuing Section 21 orders, meaning they will have to get permission from the court to evict.

Bristol City Council is the landlord for 30,000 people. Evictions are a last resort, and this will continue to be the case; except in cases of domestic abuse and serious and repeated anti-social behaviour. We are also committed to helping people maintain tenancies in the private rental sector, and can provide helpful advice and guidance to help try to resolve issues and get the tenancy back on track for landlords and tenants.

If you are a landlord considering commencing eviction proceedings, please email private.renting@bristol.gov.uk to see if we can explore other avenues.

If you are a tenant that needs advice, then support and information is available via Shelter, Citizens Advice Bureau and our Housing team here at Bristol City Council

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