The housing crisis is an abhorrence that must be tackled in the interests of both social justice and economic prosperity. It blights lives and reduces our potential. I was born into poverty, to a widowed mother. We did not have much, but we had a home and I have no wish to be Mayor of a region that fails to provide such a basic provision.
Housing policy and supply in the United Kingdom has been grossly unsatisfactory since the end of the Second World War. This is particularly true for the cities of Bristol and Bath and the wider region. There has been a consistent failure on the part of all involved to address the actual need. The consequence is too few homes and prices that are outrageously inflated.
When I started the work of the Bristol Initiative thirty years ago there were twenty thousand people in Bristol alone who were registered as homeless. This number has hardly reduced to the present day and is compounded by similar demands in the other authority areas. A safe and comfortable home is one of the key basic needs for all people and it is tragic that we have steadfastly failed to have the will to ensure this. The insecurity of tenancy terms and the high rents, alongside the excessive cost of entering ownership undermines individuals and greatly inhibits their capabilities.
As your Metro Mayor I will put in place plans for a different approach.
I will work with Central and local government, housing associations, developers and other providers to make new agreements that will deliver. We must review land availability and values and have a clear understanding with residents on good locations for growth where whole communities can be provided and with essential services such as schools and health facilities – all included in the cost of development -and all linked to good public transport. We must not just be building homes . We must preserve, and indeed enhance the quality of our environment and require high standards of sustainability.
It is important to maximise the use of brownfield land and, from my experience with the very polluted site on Bristol Harbourside, it is still possible to achieve financial balance in such areas.
One component will be a speedier move towards less conventional construction methods. Modern methods of construction using factory produced modular units – an approach that is increasingly being followed around the world. Such production in sheltered and secure environments allows for making very high quality components and significantly reduces build times on the final construction sites. Relative costs match, or are better, than conventional methods and this will improve further as output increases.
We must also ensure over our region that there is sufficient employment land .
There appears to be a dual braking effect on revolutionary change; an unwitting conspiracy between two key blocks of interest. Firstly, the attractiveness to large corporations of seeing permitted building land as a market commodity that increases relentlessly in value without the need for speedy development. The second, perhaps more pervasive, aspect is the attractiveness to existing property owners to maintain a constantly rising value so that individual wealth and savings appear to be improving; the personal positive Balance Sheet. This frustrates the need to balance cost, price, and supply and demand. I will work tirelessly to crack this particular conundrum.
My key commitments are to:
1. Break the stranglehold of existing economics and politics.
2. Ensure that plans are for sufficient new homes with a significant number of them truly affordable.
3. Build whole new communities in the right places with good quality homes, nearby schools and health facilities and linked to excellent public transport.
4. Encourage modular building to speed up supply.