How Bristol renters are building their power

Published: by Guest blog

A group of Fair Fair Renting Campaign ers hand out leafleting to onlookers

This guest blog is written by members of the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign who are a group of renters fighting to improve renting in their city.

The Bristol Fair Renting Campaign

Following our Bristol campaigners’ fight for fair rents guest blog published last week, we wanted to highlight the situation for Bristol renters today, and let you know what the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign has been doing to give renters a voice and influence change.

Renting is broken

There are 137,000 private renters in Bristol – that’s nearly one in three people in our city. We are a large community, and we are all being impacted by a renting system that is not fair, stable or safe.

Bristol renters are being pushed into an increasingly precarious position because of:

  • a lack of regulation and protections, which leaves us vulnerable to rent increases, discrimination, eviction and poor living conditions

  • a shortage of social housing in Bristol, which has meant that growing numbers of people are dependent on renting privately

This is why we launched the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign, to expose the realities of private renting in our city and demand urgent change.

Changes proposed in the Renters’ Reform Bill – a bill long promised and now being debated in parliament – will help tackle some of these problems. But only if the government delivers on them. In particular, the abolition of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions would give renters greater security, meaning landlords can’t evict tenants for no reason. It would also enable us to request that repairs are made, without the threat of losing our home.

However, it does not address one of the biggest issues we face as a community: the cost of rent.

Bristol rents are out of control

Even before the pandemic and cost of living crisis, Bristol renters were struggling with unfair rent increases. In 2021, our campaign spoke with families at Felix Road Adventure Playground in Easton, who told us that rising rents meant they would have to move away from their community and children’s schools.

With rents and bills continuing to rise, renters on lower incomes, especially families and Black communities, have to live in poor quality and unsafe properties. We aren’t able to challenge landlords who refuse to make repairs because we can’t afford to risk being given a rent increase or eviction notice or move anywhere else.

Back in 2020, we created a mural to expose the realities of renting in Bristol

Income discrimination is stopping many of us from being able to rent a home, and this disproportionately impacts people with disabilities and single parents. Those of us who are renting in our 50s and beyond, often rent shared houses, because we can’t afford to rent or buy our own homes. Some of us can’t even access this option due to age discrimination.

Bristol’s high and rising rents have profound consequences. Many local renters are key workers – so what will the social and economic impact be if they are forced to leave? Local artists are being driven out of the city, or forced to drop their practice in the face of financial hardship (of which rent is a major factor), and the impact on a city which prides itself on its creativity is undeniable.

Growing numbers of our community are at risk of homelessness. Without greater intervention and regulation, the system will not only remain broken, but people’s situations will get worse.

In 2020, Shelter Bristol ran a Home Truths listening campaign, to hear what solutions Bristol renters wanted to see. The most common suggestion Bristol residents made for changes was controlling rents. The Bristol Fair Renting Campaign has been campaigning for fair rents ever since.

Making progress in the fight for fair rents

It might seem like things will never change, but change is possible when we come together as a community. By building local renters’ power, our campaign has influenced local politicians to do something about our broken renting system.

In 2021, we created a manifesto demanding that our city’s political leaders fix private renting, including tackling high rents. Our first big action as a campaign was co-hosting a Homes and Communities Mayoral Assembly with the union ACORN ahead of the local election. Local politicians had not been addressing the broken renting system as an issue and, at our assembly, Marvin Rees committed to tackling discrimination in renting, and to lobby the national government for powers to control rents locally. This followed some impressive lobbying from ACORN, which secured a manifesto commitment to make Bristol a Living Rent city.

Since then, we have influenced a Labour Golden Motion to tackle benefits discrimination in renting which was passed in January 2022. We have also supported a Green Party motion calling for the introduction of rent control in Bristol and co-hosted a Renters’ Summit with the council and ACORN.

Fair Renting Campaigner Clare calling on the council to tackle benefits discrimination

We need rent control

Following the mayor’s commitment in 2021 to make Bristol a living rent city, the One City Living Rent Commission was formed last summer. Our campaign was invited to be a member, to represent local renters and help gather evidence showing the situation for renters now, and if and how this has changed in recent years.

The Commission’s findings expose the severity of the situation we face as renters in Bristol. They also reveal that 81% of Bristol residents support the need for rent controls to tackle unaffordable, rising rents.

We are calling for the mayor and council to lobby the national government for powers to introduce a rent freeze as a short-term crisis measure. They must prioritise working with our communities to find a rent regulation model which will ensure that all, not just some, of our communities can live here and thrive.

Read more about our demands

Join us

None of this progress would have been possible without renters across our city stepping up together to fight for our rights. Growing our campaign has been as important as holding decision-makers to account. We have been running stalls, distributing leaflets, speaking to renters across the city, and nearly 2,500 people have joined us so far.

As a renter, you might feel powerless, but our progress as a campaign shows what we can achieve when we unite.

Share our manifesto

Do you know any Bristol renters or people impacted by the broken renting system? Spread the word and ask people to sign the Bristol Fair Renting Manifesto.

Help lead the campaign

Are you a Bristol renter? Join the team to help us win a fair renting system for Bristol.

Or text/call**:** 07443 559 912