Council missing target on building affordable homes
FEWER than 350 new affordable homes have been built in Bristol each year for the last four years, new figures from the local authority show.
Marvin Rees pledged to build 2,000 new homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020 before becoming the city’s second elected mayor in May 2016.
In the four years since, between 188 and 312 new affordable homes were completed each year in Bristol.
The mayor’s office said this week that the wording of the pledge meant the council would aim to build 800 affordable homes a year, by the year 2020, as it would take some time to build up to that number.
The new housing figures from Bristol City Council come after the authority revealed it was lowering the mayor’s affordable housing target this year to 500, blaming construction delays and price rises due to the coronavirus pandemic for being unable to finish building hundreds of affordable homes in 2020/21.
Last week, Mr Rees defended the council’s housing record, saying the ambition for 800 affordable new homes was “always a stretch” and that the council has built more than any other previous administration.
Housing figures for the last 12 years presented to a council committee show the local authority under the current Labour administration oversaw the completion of 959 new affordable homes in its first four years, compared with 819 in the previous four years under the leadership of the first elected mayor, independent George Ferguson.
A total of 1,364 new affordable homes were built in the four years before that when a Liberal Democratled administration was in charge of the council. Presenting the figures to the growth and regeneration scrutiny commission on September 14, council housing manager Tim Ward said the numbers were a reflection of the cyclical nature of development and the impact of the economy and the availability of grant funding for affordable housing.
“Affordable housing is more easily delivered in volume when you have significant grant funding available, and so I think what you can see is the impact probably of reductions in affordable housing and then slowly rebounding as more funding is made available,” he said.
The commission heard that the council was working hard to increase the number of affordable homes delivered by the local authority’s housing company, Goram Homes.
Commission members agreed the council had some good measures in place to improve housing delivery.
Green councillor Paula O’Rourke, who chairs the commission, said: “It’s quite obvious that people are doing a lot of work and some of the new builds have been fantastic.”
But Conservative group leader Mark Weston said the figures showed it was “never possible” for the council to meet the mayor’s target of building 800 new affordable homes a year.
“It was never remotely achievable,” Cllr Weston said. “So I’m nervous that I’m getting told the same thing – that really, everything’s fine and it’s all in hand – when it’s not.”
The council’s latest housing delivery update report says 489 new affordable homes will be completed during this financial year according to optimistic estimates, but the more realistic number is 391.
Likewise, once a 20 per cent “optimism bias” is taken into account, it is anticipated that 797 and 1,028 new affordable homes will be completed by the end of 2021/22 and 2022/23, respectively, according to the report.
The council has set a “stretch target” of 500 for this year but plans to keep the 800 target for the next two years at least.
It says the target is likely to be “almost met” this year and will be met and “possibly even exceeded” in the next two years.