There are 13,000 people on the council house waiting list. That is why I am committed to building 2,000 new council homes as part of my long-term economic recovery plan for Bristol. I will invest a massive £500 million into building and insulating homes by 2030.
I’ve met so many people who need the stability of a council home, and it’s not just young people.
One retired couple, ‘Joan’ and ‘Mike’, have worked all of their lives but fell on hard times because of a pension scam and are now renting in the private sector. They’ve been forced to move three times in five years. Their current flat is too small for their grandchildren to come and stay. Joan and Mike’s future is still uncertain as they get older and need more help.
Without a permanent home, life is much more difficult. It’s harder to get a job, children’s learning is disrupted, and problems with poor mental health and loneliness are more likely. And the scale of the problem is hidden, with the vast majority of those without a permanent home sofa-surfing or in temporary accommodation.
So the need for council housing is clear, but unfortunately, only 181 new council homes have been built in the last five years – a dismal record.
Earlier this year, Bristol Green Party put forward a proposal to invest in building new council homes, but the Labour mayor flat-out rejected the opportunity, even though some Labour councillors broke ranks to support it.
In the rush for private development, the Labour mayor has fallen into the trap of believing the private sector will build affordable homes to fill the gap left by the missing new council homes. But after five years, the number of new affordable homes actually built is less than half his target of 800 each year – and yet he’s trumpeting this as an achievement!
The private sector should absolutely continue to build in Bristol and I am ambitious to build more homes. But only the council can build homes for those who need them most, and the council is a good landlord, charging reasonable rents, acting legally and responsibly, and offering the stable accommodation that people so desperately need.
The city can help people who don’t have a permanent home – we just need a mayor with the right plan, and the right track record of delivery. As a chief executive I’ve run major development projects. I know the pitfalls and how to keep a grip on projects so they succeed.
And our plan for council housing includes not just building more council homes but insulating all council homes by 2030, so that residents can look forward to reduced bills and warmer homes, while cutting carbon emissions.
We need to be bold if we are going to meet our housing needs and tackle the crisis, because our economic recovery depends on it.
And I will take those bold decisions.