How do the mayoral candidates view the issue of housing need?
At the beginning of October we sent a copy of the report on the Housing Benefit Poverty Hearing to the mayoral candidates who were going to take part in the housing event. With elections due in mid-November 2012, we believe that this issue deserves their urgent attention.
We pointed out that the Housing Benefit cuts have greatly exacerbated the current housing crisis in Bristol and will make it extremely difficult for anyone on benefits – including many people in low paid work – to obtain a private tenancy in future.
As this will be one of the key issues confronting the future Mayor of Bristol, we asked each candidate to explain what action they would take, if elected as Mayor, to:
- Increase the supply of affordable social housing in the city
- Introduce special initiatives to help young people at risk of becoming homeless
- Ensure that Bristol does not have the dubious distinction of being the city with the largest number of people sleeping rough outside London (as happened in the 1980s).
The Candidates Reply.
The only response has been from Geoff Gollop OBE, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Bristol, whose letter appears in full below.
Thank you for your letter of 5th October and the enclosed report on the Housing Benefit Poverty Hearing.
The provision of affordable housing is too low in Bristol and I will ensure that the City Council opens up its surplus land and buildings register to all local housing associations to review and identify sites where they could develop affordable housing. I would look to having those sites developed in Partnership with those associations and with the City Council contributing the land as part of the partnership.
I particularly note your comments with regard to empty property and I would look to the Council paying a much more active role in forcing the purchase of unlet property. I would support compulsory purchase, and I also note your suggestion of voluntary investment in bonds, which I would look to support. I believe local people would willingly lend money to support social housing and other community needs.
I recognise that in matters of housing and homelessness Bristol has a great number of voluntary and community sector organisations who have much more experience and knowledge of the problems encountered by young people and I also agree that prevention of homelessness is better than dealing with the problems that arise afterwards.
I also recognise that Bristol needs to develop training support and jobs to ensure that those who are able to work and want to work are able to do so.
I also believe that the current means of measuring the number of homeless people is not acceptable and we need to establish a count for not just rough sleepers but those who do not have a regular place to sleep.
I summarise that my view is that we need to increase the provision of housing as outlined above, we need to help people to find work and have the ability to apply for and retain jobs where they can, but most of all we need to ensure that the City Council in Partnership with the voluntary and community sector is reacting to the pressures that arise. I want to ensure that the Council shares a level of compassion and understanding.
I conclude by thanking you for taking the trouble of sending me in a copy of the report and I hope you find my comments above are useful.