February 2019: News From Your Local MP

January 29 2019

Homes fit for heroes

IT WAS 100 years ago that the first major programme of council house building began in Britain. 

The Addison Act of 1919 set out to provide half a million homes, many of which were for ex-serviceman returning from fighting in the First World War. Bristol was one of the first councils to do so, buying up pieces of land around the city’s outskirts and building one of the country’s first council estates, in Hillfields.

In the years when I was first elected, I would sometimes meet Hillfields residents who had lived there ever since the houses were first built: a sign of how happy people were with these council-built homes. This year Bristol City Council, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will be commemorating the centenary as part of the 'Homes For Heroes 100' project.

Whilst many things have changed over the past 100 years, a shortage of good quality and affordable homes remains a problem. I often hear from constituents who are living in overcrowded or poor quality accommodation and are desperate to move, but many face years on waiting lists before being rehoused. The private rented sector is increasingly unaffordable, and standards can be low, but social housing is in very short supply.

Since 2010, the rate at which new social housing has been built nationally has fallen by ninety percent. The Right to Buy scheme, which dates back to the Thatcher years, continues to have an impact, as many properties which were once let out by councils at affordable rates are now in the hands of private landlords.

In Bristol, however, we are trying to turn this around. The council is set to surpass its target of building 2,000 homes a year - of which 800 will be affordable - by 2020. This includes new hones on the old Blackberry Hill Hospital site, and there are other sites in Fishponds under consideration. The mayor and his cabinet have now also given the go-ahead to setting up a new council-owned housing company, which will help the council build even more new, affordable homes.

I recently met with Paul Smith, cabinet member for Housing at Bristol City Council, for an update on all this, and to see what I could do to help. Of course, new housing on any significant scale will have to be accompanied by transport measures to avoid future congestion and community infrastructure like school and GP places, and it’s important that central Government gives Bristol council the resources it needs to deliver on this.

If you would like to contact Kerry or her office you can call during weekdays on 0117 939 9901 (between 10am and 1pm) or email at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk