The Affordable Address: Marvin Rees’ ‘State of the City’ 2018

In the run up to American mid-terms in November you would be forgiven for thinking that a ‘State of the City’ address would be more at home across the Atlantic as a catchy stump speech for Congressional and Senate hopefuls alike. However, much closer to home, this week Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees delivered his annual ‘State of the City’ address and, alongside delivery of his administration more generally, housing delivering - particularly the issue of affordability – was a central theme for Mayor Rees.

One of the centre pieces of Mayor Rees’ address, and labelled the Council’s “number one priority” was the pledge that Bristol City Council will build 2,000 new homes a year, 800 of which he outlined would be affordable, by 2020.

Mayor Rees also used his address to celebrate the achievements of his administration in delivering new homes in Bristol, stating that the Council expected to complete 1886 homes, with 271 affordable, this year – despite what he labelled as a “standing start” at the beginning of his leadership given that there was no definable existing affordability programme in place when he took over.

Mayor Rees’ address also recognised the importance of partnership working in delivering his Labour administration’s priorities for Bristol, highlighting the recent launch of the new “Bristol is” prospectus which sets out Labour’s development ambitions. Whilst evidently opening the door to working collaboratively with the private sector, Mayor Rees’ address was clear in his view that there are a number of organisations who have bought in to the Council’s ambitions for the city and “want to come on that journey with us”, and that those who do not want to invest in the city and its people would swiftly “find themselves at the back of the queue.

A final focus of Mayor Rees’s pledge to address the housing issues faced in Bristol was the recent creation of the Bristol City Council’s our own housing company, which is seen as another tool that will enable the Council to develop sites and build new homes “where the market doesn’t provide the right solutions” and subsequently re-invest any profits in further affordable and social housing.

In a period in which Bristol’s Mayor and Labour administration have faced significant scrutiny, and criticism, on issues such as the *whispers* ‘Arena’, there has been an ongoing but steady progress on housing delivery within the authority. Based on Mayor Rees’ ‘State of the City’ address it is evident that increasing housing supply, improving affordability, and importantly delivering tangible benefits for local communities, remains a cornerstone of the Council’s aspirations for the city, which provides assurances to investors and developers wishing to capitalise on Bristol’s popularity.

However, Mayor Rees’ address, whilst offering opportunities for partnership working between the public and private sector, also lays down a clear challenge to developers. It is evident that as well as delivering new market and affordable homes there is an expectation for developers to invest in local communities by generating tangible social and economic benefits which leave a lasting positive impact on Bristol residents.

This article was written by Andy Hughes, Associate Director at MPC.