Bristol’s Green councillors are bringing a golden motion to next week’s Full Council meeting, calling on the Mayor and council to do more to maximise the supply of housing from existing buildings and council land.
The Green motion calls on the Mayor to expand the power of the already existing ‘Empty Homes Team’ and establish a brand new ‘Redundant Buildings Task Force’ to find unviable office and retail space that could be converted into homes. It also requests that the Mayor sets up a dedicated team to increase the proportion of existing planning permissions being brought forward for delivery.
In Bristol, between 2022 and 2023 there were almost 400 council homes empty at any one time. In October, there were also over five thousand mostly privately owned vacant dwellings, with nearly two thousand being vacant for six months or more . The estate agent Savills estimated that there is 185,000 square feet of long-term empty retail space in Bristol, and they expect that excess retail space across the country will double between now and 2030. This is currently enough room for almost 300 average sized flats.
There are also around 21,000 families on the housing waitlist. The housing and homelessness charity Shelter have recently estimated that on any given night in Bristol in 2023, there were approximately 3,224 people in some form of homelessness, which is an increase of over six hundred people compared with 2022 .
Cllr Tony Dyer, who put forward the motion, said: “Maximising the supply of affordable housing, especially social housing, is in everyone’s best interests and is a top priority for the Green group.
“While increased funding and devolved powers from central government would help, we can’t afford to wait for the current or future government to act when there are actions that we can take now.
“The new Local Plan identifies sites for new developments in the next fifteen years. However, we must also be identifying existing buildings that are no longer used and can be brought back into use as homes, while also delivering the backlog of 13,500 unbuilt homes that already have planning permission.
“Bristol City Council already has a small Empty Homes Team which has been highlighted by the Local Government Association as an example of good practice. Part of this motion seeks to expand their role and remit. It also looks at working with developers and owners of unviable retail space and offices to increase the supply of housing. The council must also make best use of our own land, which the council holds in stewardship for all Bristolians, to maximise the delivery of both affordable housing and social value. This should be done not just for a quick financial fix but also for the long-term future of the city.”
Cllr Carla Denyer, Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, will second the motion. She said: “This motion demonstrates that there are measures that can be implemented right now to tackle the housing crisis and the climate crisis, both of which are important to the people of Bristol. Bringing existing buildings back into use as homes could save huge levels of carbon that would otherwise be released if buildings were demolished and rebuilt.
“Across the country, Green Party councillors are working hard to tackle the big issues that the government is failing to address. This motion gives a clear view of what the priorities of any Green-led administration in Bristol would be, and I am very happy to second it.”
Full motion here – Motions received for 9 Jan FC.pdf (bristol.gov.uk)