Help us improve the way we let our homes

Today’s blog is by Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Homes and Housing Delivery and Labour Councillor for Horfield.

We all know that our city is facing a housing crisis. There are rising numbers of people becoming homeless and the increasingly unaffordable cost of housing in Bristol is creating more demand for social housing and increasing pressure on HomeChoice Bristol – the system we use to let social housing in our city. And latest Census data shows that the city’s population has grown over 10% in the last decade, as pressure grows on limited city land and budgets.

There are currently nearly 18,000 households on the housing waiting list in Bristol, and more than 1,100 households in temporary accommodation. As we continue to work to get Bristol building 1,000 new affordable homes a year by 2024, we also need to review how social housing is let in our city.

Our aim is to ensure that people are housed in homes that meet their needs, giving priority to those in greatest need, and making the application process easier for everyone to follow.

The review gives us the opportunity to look at who is housed, and why, and to develop options for how to let social housing in the future. The aim is to find the best way to create and support mixed and balanced communities, without disadvantaging those people in the greatest need.

One of our greatest challenges is balancing the very high need for homes in Bristol, against a very limited pool of available properties. As we continue to add to the 9,000 new homes of all types built in Bristol since 2016, we need to make the best use of all properties in our city and have to manage the expectations of people on the register. We will keep working to turn round any empty council homes even quicker – with council properties requiring extensive major works already re-let within two and a half months, compared to two years for privately owned properties.

We want to make the housing letting process fair, easy to use and transparent for all who use it, and give people choice wherever possible in meeting their housing need.

We need to hear from people across our city, including people living in social housing or currently on the waiting list. 

It is vitally important that we get the views of people who are on the waiting list, or have recently been housed, to make sure they agree with what is being proposed following our extensive research phase.

We have already done a great deal of work to get to this point. The review process originally began in 2019 with a survey and four community events, however it was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since we restarted the review, we have held a number of engagement events, working with tenants and those with experience of using the register, the advice and voluntary sector, and other industry experts. Their input has been vital to help shape the set of proposals we are now taking out for public consultation. We have also done extensive research into how the challenges are being addressed elsewhere across the country. 

Ideas being consulted on include:

  • Moving to a ‘managed choice’ system where the council can be more proactive in helping someone find a home.
  • Extending the use of local letting policies.
  • Changes to priority groups, including giving top priority to care leavers and under-occupiers.

The review is part of Bristol’s Big Housing Conversation, which aims to give people across our city, particularly council tenants, a greater say in how the housing system is run.

The survey will be open until Friday 7 October. To find out more and to give your views please visit

Feedback from the consultation will be used to refine proposals which will be taken to Cabinet towards the end of the year.