Woah, we've been busy! And that's led to us being pretty slack at updating this blog and for that we're really sorry... Because we're pretty excited to tell you what we've been up to!
Apart from mobilising the wonderful support of our community to defend renters around Easton from unhealthy homes and slum landlords, we've been busy working on creating something positive, something we can build a movement around, to begin making rented housing better across our city. We've been busy bringing people together to make life better for Bristol's 43,000 renters.
The Charter challenges landlords and letting agents to commit to a more ethical and professional approach to lettings, by signing up to staged "Bronze", "Silver" and "Gold" standards. These standards cover key issues of concern to renters, like security, cost and access, repairs and quality. To back up this call to action, the Charter unites statistics from organisations like Shelter, with the human voices of ACORN members and Bristol renters; the stories that lie behind the stats.
Since first drafting the Charter a few weeks back, ACORN activists have been building serious momentum and support behind it, creating a unified movement across the city - an amazing feat for a community organisation launched less than a year ago!
Our Charter has been endorsed by charities (Shelter, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Advice Centers for Avon, 1625 Independent People and Talking Money), housing associations (United Communities Housing Association) and by the UWE Student Union Council, representing 26,000 students.
We've also secured cross party political support for the Charter.
Stephen Williams MP (Bristol West), says;
“Our private rental sector is a vital asset, providing a home to 9 million people across the country. In the Bristol West constituency, over 40% of people live in the private rental sector (the 2nd highest in the UK), so I'm determined to root out the minority of rogue landlords that give it a bad name. ACORN’s charter has my full support – it is an innovative step that provides security for tenants by highlighting the best letting agencies and landlords. It also builds on what we have been able to achieve in government. We are working to end revenge evictions and to ensure transparency in letting agency fees, having already legislated for minimum energy efficiency standards and the same right of access to a housing ombudsman as social tenants.”
Thangam Debbonaire, Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, says;
“I’m delighted to support this excellent accreditation system for landlords and letting agencies in Bristol, which balances the needs, rights and responsibilities of tenants, landlords and agencies in an ethical and effective way. For landlords and letting agents, this is a way of showing your tenants and the competition that you practice to high standards and it’s a good start to building a relationship of trust with your tenants. For tenants, this is a means for you to identify who is a landlord or agent you can depend on. I’m proud that Bristol has an organisation like ACORN standing up for people’s rights to decent, affordable housing and look forward to working with them well into the future as we as a city increase the amount and quality of affordable, secure, energy-efficient housing”
And Darren Hall, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, says;
“Housing is one of the basics, but more and more people are struggling to find somewhere they can call home. The ACORN charter is a brilliant step in the right direction, offering more security to tenants at the same time as helping landlords improve the quality of the tenure. By working together, everyone can benefit. Landlords that decide not to sign up are doing so for a reason, and should be challenged"
We've also secured landlord and letting agents support, but more about that in our next post...
It's the activism of those ACORN members who've taken action, collected the support of almost 2000 renters and led this next move - as well as all of you who've told us your stories, giving weight to our call to action - that is the real power at work here. The team that leads our renters campaign meets every two weeks, click here to join them.
This Charter means we can highlight those landlords and letting agents that make the commitment, moving business their way, and away from those who refuse. Of course, as you'd expect, we will also mobilise the full support of our community to campaign to see more and more landlords and letting agents sign up.
Right now though, we need to ask for your help.
On the 17th March, Bristol City Council will vote on whether to endorse the Charter. This would mean the Charter would be pushed to 4000+ landlords across the city! Lot's of Councillors are pledging to vote yes, but we need to give them all the support we can to help convince the others.