New council-owned housing company could be foundation of house-building success

Bristol City Council is to create a new council-owned housing company to accelerate the development of new homes and communities in Bristol and beyond.
The council’s Cabinet gave the company the green light when it met on 4 September 2018. Reports prepared by officers for the meeting set out the aspiration to build houses and allow the council to have greater control over how sites for new homes are developed.
Currently, not enough new homes are built each year in Bristol. The housing company will offer another route to increase the number of homes built and meet the Mayor’s target of building 2,000 homes per year – 800 of which being affordable – by 2020.
The company will also give the council greater influence over what is built and when. This would help ensure developments provide good quality homes within mixed neighbourhoods that best suit the needs of the local community.
Sites developed by the housing company will also comply with council planning policies, aiming to deliver, as a minimum, policy compliant affordable housing.
The company will be wholly owned by the council, and the first schemes will be joint ventures with a development organisation. This will reduce the exposure to risk for the council and draw on the expertise from the commercial development world.
Using a joint venture arrangement on development sites will also enable the council to share in the financial returns from the project, which could then be re-invested to accelerate further development of new homes.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “Good quality housing can contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of people in Bristol. Currently demand for housing in the city far exceeds supply, resulting in high rents and house prices.
“We are committed to getting things done and have big ambitions for Bristol. Building quality housing is vital to making things happen in the city and improving the quality of life for the people who live here."
The Strategic Business Case for the housing company was approved by the council’s cabinet in March 2017. Since then, further detailed evaluation has taken place.
The Romney House site in Lockleaze has been identified as one of the first projects for the housing company.
Kevin Bourner, General Manager, Homes England for the South West said; “Homes England is committed to delivering housing where it’s most needed across the region. We are working closely with local authorities including Bristol City Council to find the best way of meeting the demand and accelerating delivery where possible.
"The launch of a new council-owned housing company would be a positive step and help to increase the delivery of new quality homes across the city.”
Outline planning permission was secured for 268 homes on the council owned Romney House site back in July.
The council has prior experience of setting up wholly owned companies for energy and waste management which sit under Bristol Holding Company. The proposed housing company will also sit under Bristol Holding Company.