Today the National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) joined forces and launched a manifesto calling upon the west of England’s first-ever mayor to commit to tackling the housing crisis in the region, a move passionately supported by myself.
Bristol is the region’s main city and has an enviable position – it was recently voted the ‘Best Place to Live’ in the UK (Sunday Times annual survey). But this means we need to invest in keeping it that way – through housing, infrastructure, support for employers, culture, green space, the whole mix. Housing is one element albeit a critical one. Absolutely right that we need to look at how we provide new homes, how they are designed and how they will work but we must keep a wide angle view. Bristol’s success is based on its successful blend – we need to appreciate that and invest in it.
The scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated so it’s excellent to see leading industry bodies (the NHF and the HBF) stepping forward and presenting shared thinking on how we are going to solve the problem. The new mayor is going to need all the help he or she can get so it’s crucial that industry comes together with civic leaders and we see some joined up working. Without it, there’s no way anyone can solve the problem on their own.
We need 150,000 new homes in the region and the new mayor must step up to the plate and help to make this happen. What’s critical is getting the right mix of tenures as well as building the homes properly, in the right places and with the right supporting infrastructure. Bristol is famous for its diversity and that has to be reflected in its housing supply too. Unless we build the right range of houses to meet the needs of young and old, family homes and flats, renters and buyers, we’ll damage that diversity and that would be a big mistake.
Affordability and access to housing is a massive national issue and Bristol is at the sharp end of this problem too. Today’s manifesto rightly looks at how we can improve the delivery of new homes in the city. But for me, the crucial thing is to stop talking about the numbers and start talking about the quality of place. We need to focus on putting new homes in the right locations connected to and supported by the right infrastructure. We must plan sustainably and for the long term. That means careful consideration of housing within clear strategies and masterplans. If we do that, we’ll achieve two crucial goals, namely making more good quality homes available for the people who need them plus safeguarding and investing in the quality of Bristol as a place.
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