Manchester is an example of a supposedly booming city where housing problems are acute…
A northern powerhouse? Manchester has the highest rate of families in temporary accommodation outside of London (apart from Luton). For every thousand households in Manchester, 13.02 are in temporary accommodation. This compares badly with similar sized northern cities and outstrips some London boroughs.
Almost a third of these families, including nearly 4,000 children, are living outside the city in neighbouring boroughs, due to the pressure on temporary accommodation. They are far from wider family networks and schools.
Why is Manchester experiencing such a problem? Private sector rents in the city have risen so much that the housing benefit for the private rented sector fails to cover the average rent, requiring the claimant to find the difference.
This problem is exacerbated by a property development boom, primarily in the city centre, but fuelling a housing crisis in other areas of the city. Much of this new development has been funded by overseas capital.
The independent Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping reported in September. It concluded that the government’s target of ending rough sleeping by 2024 would not be met. Much of the problem is attributed to the severe shortage of social rented housing, though it extends right through the housing sector.
People hoping to buy have instead been forced into the private rented sector, leading to increases in rents. Many private landlords have exploited the situation, evicting families unable to meet high rent increases.
A report by Greater Manchester Housing Action highlights one example of a partnership between Manchester City Council and ADUG, a private equity group that has close ties with the Abu Dhabi state, to build over 1,500 apartments.
‘People hoping to buy have been forced to rent…’
The report concluded that the partnership has effectively offshored parts of the city. It suggests that the council has agreed 999-year leases of land at significantly below good value. Abu Dhabi has several other partnerships with the council.
Developers have been allowed to make soaring profits without making any significant contribution to affordable or social housing. The approach of the council was not to push for social housing in return for development opportunities.
On the contrary, the city council view has been that the city had enough social housing, and it wanted to create more “market rent” homes, particularly in the city centre and adjoining neighbourhoods. So the rents for new apartments far exceed what many families can afford.
This has had a knock-on effect on the remaining private rented sector. Landlords raise rents to meet the perceived heightened demand. Families are forced out of their existing homes, being unable to afford the new rents even after claiming benefits.
In thrall to a developer-led model of regeneration in the city, Manchester has sought inward investment at any cost. It has sold off its assets at low value with little in return and created the conditions for inflicting a housing and homelessness crisis on many of its most vulnerable citizens.