Coun­cil miss­ing tar­get on build­ing af­ford­able homes

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Amanda CAMERON Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter amanda.cameron@reach­

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.

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