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BRISTOL: Project 1000

BRISTOL: Project 1000

Source: Amanda Cameron.

Bristol is developing a new plan to accelerate the building of affordable homes in the city.

‘Project 1000’ will set out how the council will try to ensure 1,000 affordable homes are built each year from 2024 – a key election pledge of city mayor Marvin Rees.

And “realistic conversations” are needed about whether they are built on green spaces or in tower blocks on land where buildings already exist, scrutiny councillors heard on Tuesday (November 16).

Bristol City Council’s head of housing delivery, Elaine Olphert, told them a “big step change” in the rate of building affordable homes was needed to meet the mayor’s “ambitious” target.

Only 188 to 400 new affordable homes have been built each year for the past five years in Bristol.

Meanwhile, more than 16,000 people are waiting for a council house, 930 households are in temporary accommodation, and the average Bristol resident now needs almost nine times their annual salary to be able to buy a house in the city, papers to the meeting show.

To tackle the challenge, the council has pulled together a board of seven people to oversee the development of a new affordable housing delivery plan for 2022 to 2025.

The ‘Project 1000’ board comprises:

  • Stephen Peacock, the council’s executive director for growth and regeneration
  • Cllr Tom Renhard, cabinet member for housing
  • Kevin Slocombe, head of the mayor’s office
  • Olaine Olphert, head of housing delivery at the council
  • Donald Graham, the council’s interim director for housing and landlord services
  • Stephen Baker, managing director of Goram Homes, the council’s housing company, and
  • Jez Sweetland, project director for the Bristol Housing Festival, a programme to find innovative solutions to the housing crisis.

Mr Peacock said the group was looking back at the past five years or more to learn how to deliver affordable homes more smoothly and more quickly.

“We understand how things can get delivered,” he said. “We can push hard, get the small details right, and we believe there is a lot we can do to accelerate.”

Implications for green spaces, housing height and density

Members of the growth and regeneration scrutiny commission expressed their support for the “very challenging” target, but noted there were potential implications for green spaces and the height and density of new housing.

Commission chair, Green councillor David Wilcox, asked how the council’s housing plans would reflect a motion backed by full council in September to preserve wildlife-rich land.

Cllr Renhard said planning committees always have the final say over what’s built and the motion will make “little difference” to what’s proposed by private developers until a new Local Plan is in place.

He said: “I think there’s a bigger discussion to be had about where does Bristol build.

“The majority of our building is on brownfield [land]. There needs to be a more realistic conversation around some of that.

“If we don’t put 500 houses on one site, where are they going instead? Are people prepared to accept more height, more density, potentially?”

Answering a question from former Green councillor Clive Stevens about how much of Bristol’s affordable housing could be built on green space, officers wrote: “Work around the identification of development sites for affordable housing that support the emerging housing delivery plan is underway but at this stage officers cannot accurately respond to this question.”

Conservative councillor Richard Eddy, said: “We all understand the need to actually build out of Bristol’s housing crisis.”

Green councillor Tony Dyer said: “I think all of us in this chamber are committed to making sure we deliver that affordable housing target, because, as we saw earlier on, it continues to be a red line corporate risk, quarter after quarter after quarter.”

The council’s failure to deliver enough affordable housing to meet the city’s needs remains a “critical threat”, according to its latest register of risks.

The new housing delivery plan is due to come before cabinet in February next year.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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