The first family is already benefiting from new rooms in a pilot scheme set up by Bristol City Council thanks to Green councillor Martin Fodor’s budget amendment, which pays for extra rooms in cramped council housing.
Bristol has a shortage of larger council houses – the waiting list is twice as long as for smaller properties, and families needing larger homes have to wait for around 2 years.
Last year Green councillor Martin Fodor identified unspent funds in the Council’s Housing Revenue Account and proposed a budget amendment to use this spare money (unspent capital reserves) to create extensions in council homes where there is space for extra rooms. The Greens put the amendment forward at the Council Budget meeting in February 2019 and it was unanimously voted through with support from all Parties (1) – a rare occurrence for budget amendments. The funding in question was reserved for use on council housing so the amendment has not cost the council extra money.(2)
One year on, Cllr Fodor’s proposal is coming into play as the first council houses are being extended through a pilot scheme – with one extension just completed and other projects in development. And as well as providing more housing stock for larger families in Bristol, the amendment has also made it possible for foster families in the city to care for more children by providing much needed space.
Leader of the Green Group, Councillor Eleanor Combley, said:
“Like many councils, Bristol always needs more foster carers, who provide a crucial service providing a home and safe family environment for our children in care. Our ambition is to let every child grow up within a family, if that is the right thing for them. We know that many of our committed foster carers would be willing to offer a home to another child, but are stopped by the lack of space. Now thanks to the Greens’ amendment, the excellent way council officers and foster carers work together, and the collaborative approach taken by Family Services and Housing Departments, a first home has just been extended with a two-storey side extension and handed back to a foster family with extra rooms, and builders have started work on another property.”
Councillor Fodor went to visit the family. The Green councillor said he was “thrilled” to see how his budget amendment was helping people directly. He said:
“It’s so rewarding to know my council house extension fund not only worked but is now helping people’s lives in an unexpected way, to provide a family life to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the city. I feel like it’s one of the most direct ways I’ve made a difference to peoples lives since I became a councillor in 2014.”
“I’m thrilled that this budget amendment is helping people so directly.”
One teenager in the family said:
“After the extension has been built it feels more spacious and not overcrowded, and now we can all socialise in one place without getting in each others ways. We can all help around the kitchen as it is big enough for all of us to help out when needed”
Foster parent Becky said that before the extension the family had limited space. She wrote that with the extension completed she would be able to care for another child and described the benefits to her family:
“Downstairs has created a larger communal area for the family where independence can be encouraged with cooking in the kitchen; extra family space for the whole family to interact and all children can have friends around which is encouraged. The extra space has enabled us to have a homework station in the kitchen diner area so that I can help support homework whilst cooking.”
“The living room is much larger. Since the extension has been completed we have, as a large family, come together a lot more… even though it is early days of completion we are seeing the vast advantages to us as a family this has created.”
1) Press release from February 2019 https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/greens-present-budget-amendments-to-create-more-housing-and-save-money
2) The amendment proposed by Councillor Fodor used underspent money ringfenced for use on council housing, which could not be allocated to other departments
3) Image of Martin Fodor visiting the new extension