New space for vital foster carers in city housing
Cllr. Martin Fodor outside the first council house extended using funds from the pilot scheme
The first family is already benefiting from new rooms in a pilot scheme set up by Bristol City Council thanks to Redland councillor Martin Fodor’s budget amendment, which pays for extra rooms in cramped council housing.
Bristol has a shortage of larger council houses – the waiting list is twice as long as for smaller properties, and families needing larger homes have to wait for around two years.
Last year Green Party councillor Martin Fodor identified unspent funds in the Council’s Housing Revenue Account and proposed a budget amendment to use this spare money (unspent capital reserves) to create extensions in council homes where there is space for extra rooms. The amendment was unanimously voted through with support from all parties – a rare occurrence for budget amendments. The funding in question was reserved for use on council housing so the amendment has not cost the council extra money.
Cllr Fodor explained: “The idea is that all other properties, such as private sector owners and landlords, get extensions and spare rooms added when more space is needed. I suggested that as council houses become vacant they could be assessed and the most suitable types could have extensions added while being made ready to re-let.”
One year on, his proposal is coming into play as the first council houses are being extended through a pilot scheme – with one extension just completed and other projects in development. This is a pilot scheme which could reach up to a maximum of ten properties.
As well as providing more housing stock for larger families in Bristol, the amendment has also made it possible for foster families in the city to care for more children by providing much needed space.
Leader of the Green Group, Bishopston Councillor Eleanor Combley, said: “Like many councils, Bristol always needs more foster carers, who provide a crucial service providing a home and safe family environment for our children in care. Our ambition is to let every child grow up within a family, if that is the right thing for them.
“We know that many of our committed foster carers would be willing to offer a home to another child, but are stopped by the lack of space. Now thanks to this amendment, the excellent way council officers and foster carers work together, and the collaborative approach taken by Family Services and Housing Departments, a first home has just been extended with a two-storey side extension and handed back to a foster family with extra rooms, and builders have started work on another property.”
Councillor Fodor went to visit the family and see the improvements himself.
“It’s so rewarding to know my council house extension fund not only worked but is now helping people’s lives in an unexpected way, to provide a family life to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the city,” he said.
“I feel like it’s one of the most direct ways I've made a difference to peoples lives since I became a councillor in 2014. I’m thrilled that this budget amendment is helping people so directly.”
A teenager in the family said: “After the extension has been built it feels more spacious and not overcrowded, and now we can all socialise in one place without getting in each other's way. We can all help around the kitchen as it is big enough for all of us to help out when needed.”
Foster parent Becky found that before the extension the family had limited space. She wrote that with the extension completed she would be able to care for another child and described the benefits to her family:
“Downstairs has created a larger communal area for the family where independence can be encouraged with cooking in the kitchen; extra family space for the whole family to interact and all children can have friends around which is encouraged. The extra space has enabled us to have a homework station in the kitchen diner area so that I can help support homework whilst cooking.
“Even though it is early days of completion we are seeing the vast advantages to us as a family this has created.”
To find out more about fostering a child see: www.bristol.gov.uk/web/foster-with-bristol-city-council/home