House prices forcing key workers out of Bristol, councillors told

Key workers are being forced to quit vital jobs and move away from Bristol because of unaffordable house prices, a council meeting was told.

In the last fortnight a social care professional had to leave their role at the local authority after just four months and move to where property is cheaper, along with their partner who is also a social worker, members heard.

The exodus is jeopardising crucial Bristol City Council targets, including delivering enough affordable homes to meet the city’s needs, with the risk of failure to achieve this rated as “critical” – the highest possible – and deemed to be “almost certain” in the organisation’s own risk register, it was revealed.

Read more: First-time buyers in Bristol now pay a third of their salary on mortgage payments

The authority says a four-year housing delivery plan will set out its strategy for meeting Labour mayor Marvin Rees’s target of building 1,000 affordable homes a year by 2024 and that this year’s goal of 450 will increase annually through a wide range of options for accelerating housing supply.

Former Green councillor Clive Stevens told overview and scrutiny management board members: “In a nutshell if we don’t have enough affordable homes, the city won’t have access to enough key workers to be able to deliver some of the council’s corporate strategy goals.

“This affordable housing shortfall presents a systemic risk to the mayor’s entire corporate strategy because having enough affordable homes is such an important part of having enough carers, teachers and other key workers in the city.

“Sorry to bang on about affordable housing – lack of – but it is an important issue to at least 25 per cent of Bristolians and could be a threat to the corporate plan.

“Last week a council adult social care professional handed in their notice.

“They had been working for the council for just four months and were to be an important part of the team. They have a partner, a social worker.

“Their reason for both leaving so soon was they couldn’t afford to live in Bristol.

“They have moved to where property is cheaper. A household of two working people, not totally full time, can’t afford to live here.”

Former Green Cllr Clive Stevens at Bristol City Council overview and scrutiny management board on October 18
(Image: Bristol City Council/YouTube)

The ex-audit committee vice-chairman, who used to lead the annual budget scrutiny process before stepping down as a councillor because of ill-health in 2020, said the lack of affordable housing had been getting worse since at least 2000.

“Bristol planners and builders have failed to deliver enough during the last 20 years,” he told the City Hall meeting on Monday, October 18.

“There is a low chance of meeting the city’s needs and high harm caused by not doing so.”

In a written response to Mr Stevens’ concerns, a council officer said: “The emerging 2021-25 housing delivery plan will set out the council’s strategy for meeting the 1,000 homes a year target by 2024.

“It will look at a wide range of options for accelerating supply by working with partner providers, the council’s housing company and the direct delivery of council homes.

“It will also reflect the processes, budgets, and officer capacity across the council to support accelerated housing delivery.

“The housing delivery plan will reflect the impact affordable housing has on meeting wider corporate aims.

“We recognise the importance and value of affordable housing, and continue to press for the right national investment in key projects such as Temple Quarter that support our ambitious aims for the city.”

They said many factors could feasibly affect the authority’s ability to achieve all its goals and aspirations, and the supply of affordable housing was one.

“However, in terms of issues like workforce availability, we should be mindful that there is a much broader travel to work area,” the officer said.

“The corporate strategy sets out overarching aims and there is more detailed planning, risk assessment and target setting across the whole council that flows from this top-level strategy.

“This will include risks associated with the delivery of affordable housing and both this and progress against targets will be reported transparently to appropriate scrutiny and cabinet forums over the life of the strategy.”

They added that the 2021/22 target was to build 450 affordable homes and this would increase annually, “staircasing delivery to reach the mayoral target of 1,000 affordable homes being built in 2023/24”.

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