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A pioneering force: Bristol demonstrates innovation in commitment to meeting affordable housing targets


With more than 11,000 people on waiting lists for council housing and as many as 120 people per night sleeping rough, Bristol’s housing situation has been in crisis for some time now. Inflated purchasing costs mean many of the city’s residents are priced out of the market and as landlords rush to meet increasing demand, private sector rents have been skyrocketing faster than in any other core city in the UK.

So when Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees pledged to build over 2,000 new homes a year in the city with at least 800 meeting affordable housing criteria, he was met with some skepticism. With many overjoyed by the decision and some convinced he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it, all eyes have been on housing development across Bristol. Now, a new series of developments across the city have proven not only that the Council’s commitment to affordable housing is more than paying lip service, but that there are innovative ways for developers to achieve these targets while still keeping their projects financially viable.

Bristol City Council has further demonstrated its intentions with an injection of £57m in funds from the Council’s own pot to incentivise developers to deliver increased numbers of social homes.

Just this week a scheme in South Bristol, which will comprise of 100% affordable housing, was unanimously approved at planning committee, giving the go ahead to the Winterstoke Road development which will see 59 one and two bedroom flats and eight terraced homes, built around a children’s play area. The scheme has been brought forward by housing association United Communities and will benefit from the Council’s housing grant.

Another example of how Bristol is innovating in this area is a development located in Southmead. The Dunmail site, also known as Elderberry Walk, has been heralded as the first development in Britain to be funded by both community and private investors as well as a housing association. This greatly diversifies the different types of housing available on the site, which will include affordable rental homes, shared ownership arrangements and even rent-to-buy pathways, alongside some which will be listed for sale on the market. The success of this model is already providing a benchmark for similar endeavors across the country, setting the tone for the future of affordable housing in Britain.

The Council, in partnership with housing association and developer Curo, has also recently welcomed residents into a new site on Whitehall Road, near Easton. The first of its kind to be built for many years, the entire development is affordable with all of the properties being let via the Council’s own HomeChoice website.

Riding on its success to date, the Council now has bigger, bolder plans: alongside selected developers and housing associations, they are aiming to develop new affordable housing in over 54 sites across the city.

Recent projections show that Rees is on track to deliver 3,500 homes by 2020, 1054 of which will be affordable. With Brexit causing economic ambiguity in the UK and many areas seeing a decline in development and the housing market caused by uncertainty and lack of investor confidence, Bristol has never offered a more attractive environment for house builders. Opportunities are rife to create innovative partnerships and deliver much-needed housing throughout the city, meeting and even exceeding affordable housing targets to deliver much needed, inclusive housing options for everyone.