Greens today unveiled a new strategy for tackling Bristol’s housing crisis; one they say contains the ‘building blocks for a housing revolution’ in the city. Molly Scott Cato, Green Party candidate for Bristol West, and Tony Dyer, candidate in Bristol South, will launch the new housing strategy this Friday at HAB Housing in Bristol, the firm of architects set up by TV celebrity architect Kevin McCloud.
The two parliamentary candidates, who jointly wrote the new report, will focus particularly on ‘a new settlement for renters’ which promises protections enjoyed by tenants in other parts of Europe and in Scotland. Mike Roberts, of HAB Housing, will also talk at the launch.
Greens want to see a move away from short-term tenancies, enabling renters to stay in their home as long as they pay their rent and abide by their contract, and a ‘living rent’ where rents are capped to within one third of the take home pay of the average household. They also call for new powers for the city council and mayor in regulating the local rental market, as in many cities across Europe. Tony Dyer said:
“Private renters in the UK suffer from some of the weakest protections in Europe. With no rent controls, the median rent in Bristol last year was £850 per month, around half the average take- home pay for the city. Young people are hit particularly hard by such eye-watering rents, forcing many to rent a room in a shared house, unable to get a place of their own. Small wonder 10,000 private renters in Bristol need housing benefit to make ends meet.
“With tenancies lasting 6 or 12 months, renters are vulnerable to eviction and sudden rent rises. End of tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness in England, and landlords issued 1,160 possession notices in Bristol last year.
“We need a new settlement for renters, bringing them protections enjoyed in other parts of Europe. The Scottish government is taking steps to help renters; England must too.”
The Green’s strategy rejects the argument that the housing crisis can be solved simply by building lots of new homes. They blame Bristol’s housing crisis on ‘treating homes as investments’ and the sell-off and a lack of investment in new council homes. It highlights that for every £1 the Government spends on low rent homes, it spends £23 fuelling the private market. Molly Scott Cato said:
“It’s not that we have failed to build enough homes in Bristol, it’s that housing has become about investments rather than about a space to live. Developers flog off their new flats in Bristol to investors before they’re even built. An obscene feature of this market is the fact investors use offshore companies to avoid tax and hide their identity. It is estimated that offshore companies have gobbled up £1.2 billion of property in Bristol. It’s clear that simply building more homes in this broken market isn’t going to fix the problems of extortionate rents or exorbitant house prices. We certainly will need more homes as the population of Bristol grows, but we cannot simply build our way out of the problem.”
The Greens housing strategy calls for an end to tax breaks for landlords’ mortgages and schemes like Help to Buy. They say that public money currently going towards these schemes should instead be put towards delivering more genuinely affordable housing. They also call for the council to be free to borrow prudently to build new council housing and to use its large land holdings and pension fund to back community-led approaches like Community Land Trusts, co-operatives and cohousing.
Molly Scott Cato concluded:
“As Green MP I would work to put in place the building blocks of a housing revolution in Bristol, working with residents and campaign groups to make the case for creating a fairer housing market, where younger and older generations; home owners or renters, all have equal opportunities for decent affordable homes.”