Housing, and particularly housing for the most vulnerable is an urgent priority for Bristol West. Looking out of the window of my campaign office in Lawrence Hill I can see the evidence right here. People in the private rented sector are particularly vulnerable to poor quality or downright unsafe housing at extortionate rents. People in publicly owned housing are in a much better position but there is a desperate shortage of socially owned and affordable housing. This constituency has one of the highest proportions of people living in private rented homes and some of the highest rents in the country.
Labour has clearly committed to various specific policies to address these problems, following on from the recommendations of the Lyons Housing Review, which we commissioned.
- We will abolish the practice of lettings agencies charging tenants a fee – something which is not necessary for running their business and is often charged repeatedly and for no reason.
- We will cap rent increases and make three year tenancies the norm.
- We will bring in a landlords’ register – and I will campaign for this to be for landlords who have fulfilled legal and good practice requirements, such as those in the ACORN ethical lettings charter, developed by local Bristol community union ACORN.
- We will use capital from the First Time Buyer ISA as a bond to invest in socially owned housing.
- We will increase the incentives for property developers and housing associations to build on land they already own and have planning permission for – and remove the planning permission if they don’t use it quickly.
- We will aim to be building over 200,000 homes per year by 2020 – I’d like this to be higher and if the economy picks up, it will be.
Locally, I’ve also been very active:
I have shown my active support for ending the housing crisis already in several ways:
- I brought a group of tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax to meet our then Housing Spokesperson Jack Dromey in Autumn 2012 where he committed to them that Labour would repeal the legislation which brought in this hated and wasteful tax.
- I organised the first city anti Bedroom Tax demonstration on College Green in Autumn 2012, promoted the problem with the press, researched the financial consequences of the tax and ensured that this information reached the public and political domains through use of press, statements an questions at council meetings and internal policy consultation within the Labour party.
- I’ve highlighted the impact of the bedroom tax on victims of domestic violence.
- I brought Emma Reynolds, Labour’s Housing Spokesperson, down to Bristol in 2013 to meet housing providers, homeless charities, letting agencies and others affected by or concerned about the housing crisis to discuss policy and legislative changes needed.
- I have been promoting Bristol Labour Councillor Ron Stone’s proposals for creating a Bristol bond and other measures to build and refurbish homes for Bristol.
- I’m supporting Easton energy group who are helping local people to keep their homes warm and save money on fuel bills.
- I’m campaigning hard on ending the iniquitous practice of letting agencies charging tenants fees for private lettings, helped individual tenants to get advice and help with this problem and shown my support for community organisation Acorn who are also campaigning on this in our area. I’ve collected thousands of signatures from local residents myself and have also promoted this problem to the public and politicians through press and radio.
- I used my monthly column in Bristol 247 in December to highlight that whilst reforms to Stamp Duty are welcome, they don’t deal with most people’s problems with the high cost of housing in general, whether renting or buying.
You can download a summary of Labour’s General election manifesto to read more.