A Green councillor in Bristol said they were cautiously positive about potential changes to housing targets that could see the removal of the government-imposed 35% uplift to the city’s housing target – but that they remain wary due to a lack of detail in the reported proposals.
The government’s previous approach of a mandatory target forced cities like Bristol to prioritise land use for housing at the expense of all other land uses, including space for local employment and nature. Pressure on councils to meet housing targets can mean developments are approved with poor standards or low levels of affordable housing.
Southville Councillor Tony Dyer brought a motion calling for a realistic approach to Bristol’s housing target to a Council meeting in November, which passed unanimously with support from all parties. He said “I’m not against Bristol having targets – but they should be backed up by the evidence”.
The Green Councillor explained:
“The government’s 35% uplift to housing targets in Bristol was a poor approach from the start. It led to a target for the city that was never achievable and undermined locally set planning policies. Bristol has thousands of households on the housing waiting list and there is a real need for new, affordable homes. I believe that a clear, evidence-based approach to housing targets is the best way to meet that need, whilst also delivering the mix and standard of housing we need for the future – including measures to address climate change and protect our valued green spaces. The intention to tackle ‘land banking’ from greedy developers is also welcome. So I’m cautiously positive about this news.
“Nevertheless, until we see the actual concrete details of the policy rather than press reports and interviews, I’ll be reserving judgement. The devil may be in the detail, and frankly it is hard to trust a government which has done so much damage over the last decade.”
According to a letter from Secretary of State Michael Gove, mandatory housing targets will be replaced by centrally determined “advisory” targets which will act as a “starting point”, with councils able to propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area. If councils are able to demonstrate this is the case, they will be allowed to build fewer homes.
Tony Dyer also called for more genuinely affordable and council housing to tackle the cost of living crisis. He said:
“The Green Party is committed to a ‘just transition’ to a carbon neutral future. In the same way, protecting our green spaces and built heritage must also be done in a way that is just and fair. It’s a difficult balance to strike but we must ensure that a much higher proportion of the homes that are built in Bristol are genuinely affordable rather than simply exacerbating the city’s out of control housing affordability crisis.
“Following World War One, the government invested in building new council homes that set new standards for housing. The UK need a similar level of commitment from the government today to address our cost of living and homelessness crises. Councils must have the funding to deliver the levels of quality, low carbon council housing that we need.”