The Mayor’s 2021 manifesto included a pledge to make Bristol a “living rent city” and in 2022 the City Office established a Bristol Living Rent Commission to explore how this could be achieved. Since it was formed, the commission has been co-chaired by Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Lead for Housing Delivery and Homes, and Professor Alex Marsh, School for Policy Studies, the University of Bristol. The commission included representatives from partner organisations that could provide insight into private renting and help drive forward the research. These sector experts, tenants, landlords and academics investigated the issues faced by the city, and heard testimony from other organisations, groups, and individuals with lived experience. The members of this commission were:
- Fair Renting Campaign
- Generation Rent
- ALL Wessex
- Bristol Older People’s Forum
- Ashley Community Housing
- Black South West Network
- UWE Students’ Union
- UoB Students’ Union
- We Can Make
- Trowers and Hamlins
- Brighter Places
The commission’s key aim has been to explore measures to improve affordability in the private rented sector, while understanding the unintended potential impacts of rent regulation – including on housing availability, quality, and maintenance. There are no simple solutions to a crisis of this scale and the commission has allowed an evidence base to be built to help develop an approach that works for Bristol. The core principles of the commission were to:
- Improve affordability of the private rented sector
- Understand the impact of regulation on rent prices including on housing quality and maintenance
- Identifying the most effective rent controls
- Consider what other powers are required
- Consider how to empower tenants’ rights
To build a picture of the current issues facing tenants, the commission drew on discussions at commission meetings, a tenant experience survey and written evidence. Within the report, the experiences faced by tenants are broken down into key areas of focus. These are: Rent charges, Rent burdens, Financial pressures and insecurity, Evictions, repairs, and landlord-tenant problems, lack of affordability and inadequate financial resources, poor living conditions, inequalities in access and discrimination, lack of private rental supply, changes in demand, and reduced generosity of the welfare system.
In total, the final report outlines 29 recommendations. These focus on improving standards, tenants’ experiences, and the accessibility of private renting. The commission’s recommendations reflect that the powers to regulate the market must come from central government. The recommendations also reflect the need to continue the constructive dialogue with renters and other stakeholders in the private rented sector to achieve the goal of delivering meaningful and lasting positive change for the sector.
The report has been presented to the Mayor on the 27th June, and a response will be brought to a future cabinet meeting to consider Bristol City Council’s response to the recommendations in detail. The report has also been shared with the government and MPs, as well as other UK cities. Many recommendations require BCC to work with stakeholders and with national government to develop policy, while some are things they can change more quickly.
The Executive Summary is available here
The full report is available here