Greater Manchester housing crisis and devolution

Greater Manchester Housing Action calls for a progressive and radical policy on housing ahead of its mayoral housing and homelessness hustings

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When you mention the housing crisis, people tend to think of London and of campaign groups like Focus E15. The capital has experienced the worst of the crisis, and the pushback there has been among the most dynamic in the country. But London is not alone.

Social housing stock in Manchester and surrounding boroughs has been disappearing fast and the construction of new council properties is virtually nil. The waiting list for social housing is over 120,000 names long. With the average mortgage in the city requiring an annual salary of over £34,000, many are forced into the private rented sector. Yet the sector is unregulated and favours powerful landlords. Damp and squalid conditions are all too common.

As Big Issue North readers and vendors know too well, homelessness in Greater Manchester is the highest in the UK outside London. Last year, the number of homeless people rose by 44 per cent. The year before that it rose by 79 per cent. Last year, the death of two homeless people in a fire caused public outcry but so far has failed to translate into decisive action by Manchester City Council. Over 6,000 people presented as homeless to Greater Manchester’s local authorities in 2016, despite there being 11,000 empty properties. The most dramatic rise in homelessness last year was amongst women and 16-21 year olds, and as housing benefit is cut for this age group the problem is worsening quickly.

At the beginning of this year, Manchester was named one of the year’s property hot spots, threatening to drastically increase the cost of living, forcing residents out and fundamentally changing the make-up of the region.

On 4 May Greater Manchester will elect its first metro mayor, who will have power over transport and housing, and influence over health and social care and planning policy. On paper, it provides a chance to revive local democracy and increase political accountability. But rather than providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring power back to a local level, devolution could easily just exacerbate the inequality that has developed in Greater Manchester during the years of its lopsided economic renaissance.

So far, the devolution agenda has been driven by powerful established interests. But the solution does not lie in attracting more wealthy investors whose motivations are shaped by profit rather than empathy. We need a progressive and radical policy on housing. We need to see the construction of new housing and the rehabilitation of Greater Manchester’s many empty buildings. We need to remember that properties are not just assets – they are homes.

Greater Manchester Housing Action is a coalition of organisations and individuals who are campaigning for this change. Along with Generation Rent, Manchester TUC, Unite Community and the University of Manchester Student’s Union, we are organising the Greater Manchester mayoral housing and homelessness hustings, to give local people the chance to hear from the candidates – Sean Anstee for the Conservatives, Jane Brophy for the Liberal Democrats, Andy Burnham for Labour, Will Patterson for the Greens and Shneur Odze for Ukip – on how they would set about doing things differently if elected.

The hustings will be an opportunity for ordinary individuals, groups and organisations to talk about their experiences of the housing crisis and present questions directly to the candidates. Please come!

 Follow GMHA and the Housing Greater Manchester campaign on our Twitter and Facebook pages. The Greater Manchester Mayoral Housing and Homelessness hustings will be held at St Philip’s Chapel, Salford on 3 April 2017. Sign up here. If you have any questions about the work of GMHA or would like to get involved, please email gmhousingaction@gmail.com 

Interact: Responses to Greater Manchester housing crisis and devolution

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