People who rent homes in Bristol are being invited to share their experiences of housing in the city and look at options to tackle the rent crisis at online summit next month.
Bristol City Council has teamed up with the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign (supported by Shelter), and community union ACORN, to host the event on Wednesday 2 March, to look at the possibility of introducing rent control in the city, as well as discussing enforcement powers and other issues facing renters.
The summit will open with a speech from Mayor Marvin Rees who will outline the current situation in Bristol, and renters will have the opportunity to share their own experiences of the rental market.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “The national housing crisis poses big challenges for our city and tackling it remains one of the council’s top priorities.
“As well as accelerating the building of affordable housing across Bristol, we are currently strengthening our powers to tackle rogue landlords, and we have invested £42 million in improving the energy efficiency of our council homes.
“I made a manifesto commitment to campaign for the power to introduce rent controls to make Bristol an affordable living city, and we are calling on government to give us the power to regulate rents.
“Piloting rent control in Bristol will allow us to take a step towards tackling our local renting crisis and will help us develop learnings and that can inform wider positive change for the rest of the city.”
The summit aims to start a conversation with the community about what rent control for Bristol could look like, reviewing examples of how it has proven to be effective in other countries, and considering the best system for our city.
Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet member for Housing Delivery and Homes, said: “Our city is facing a rent crisis. We have ever-increasing rents, no-fault evictions still in effect and demand exceeding supply. There are some homes that are not even fit for habitation in a private rented sector where tenants can struggle to enforce the few rights they have.
“Bristol rents are out of control and the renting system is not fair, stable or safe. Unaffordable private rents are deepening inequality, as people on lower incomes are at growing risk of homelessness and many are being forced out of the city.
“It’s time for a reset in the relationship and for the national government to give us the powers we need locally to properly regulate privately rented housing. We are asking renters across the city to join us to share their experiences, shape the discussion on enforcement and hear about different models of what a living rent for Bristol could look like if we had the power to introduce rent controls.”
There are over 134,000 people currently renting privately in Bristol, this represents almost one-third of the population. Over the last decade, private rents in Bristol have increased by 52%, while wages have only risen by 24%. On average, Bristol residents now need to spend almost nine times their annual salary to buy a house.
Sarah Fitzgerald from the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign, who are helping to organise the summit, said: “The Fair Renting Campaign has called on the local council to make renting in Bristol fair and affordable for everyone, and they are listening.
“This renters’ summit is an opportunity for Bristol’s renters to add their voice to the call, to tell their stories, and to help shape the future of Bristol’s private rental market.
“From ending discrimination to exploring rent control measures, this is a moment where we can start to make the changes Bristol needs, and this summit is the first step. So come along and help us shape Bristol’s future.”
Jo Sparks, ACORN Bristol branch secretary, said: “Everyone deserves decent, affordable and secure housing. ACORN has fought for it for years in Bristol and it’s about time that we started pushing the government for proper controls on rent, which is absolutely extortionate for most ordinary Bristolians.
“We’re sick of being ripped off by those landlords who take a huge chunk of our income and give us substandard housing in return. We have consistently campaigned for the council to push for rent controls and welcome the Bristol administration’s renewed commitment on this issue. ACORN members look forward to working with the Mayor and Councillor Tom Renhard to win affordable rents across the city.”