A Roof over Your Head

This week is a look at the often controversial subject of housing but before that a general comment. Very happy to engage in dialogue around the blog's content but to do that you need to go to the Council's website. Won't be engaging with anonymous abuse on social media.

Let's start with a recognition that we are in the middle of a national housing crisis. For years provision of new homes has simply failed to keep up with a growing population and with changes to household types . The housing crisis runs in tandem with a homelessness crisis - it's not the sole cause of that crisis but its absolutely the case that it won't be solved without more homes. For the thousands of families in temporary accommodation up and down the country, not just in Manchester, the ideal solution is more social homes, but at the very least there should be secure, good quality homes with rents no more than local housing allowance levels.

Although homeless families and street homeless people are the priority for Council investment, its not the only area of need. Up until very recently people looking to rent in and around the city centre were having to take flats unseen because demand was so high. New supply coming on stream has eased that situation but Council research indicates that even with what seems like an enormous number of flats being built, there is unlikely to be enough supply to meet demand over the next five years.

Sticking with city centre/edge of city centre living just for a little longer, don't get too carried away with the description "luxury" flats. There are some genuinely "luxury" flats but in the main this is just marketing hype for what is predominantly city centre workers housing. As, with the exception of some short-term rental ( Airbnb and similar ) stuff, all these flats are fully occupied, we also need to ask where all these people would live otherwise.

This leads to a more general question of where can we build the homes we need. Dense urban living is far more likely to meet our zero carbon commitments than more suburbanisation. If we don't build high density housing on brownfield sites in central Manchester and Salford, the alternative is to build on huge swathes of green belt housing which is inherently less sustainable.

Two final comments. Firstly, for a majority of people, their aspiration is to own their home. City Centre or elsewhere in the city, there are nowhere near enough homes for sale and not a wide enough range of homes for sale.

Finally back to homeless families and low income families. Obviously we want more people to be in work and for everybody to be paid at least the real living wage. Even if we achieved that, just taking the number of families on the Council waiting list judged to be in housing need we could do with around 5000 extra social rented homes - ideally Council houses. To build those would take around £400m of subsidy and we couldn't build them over night. That means we need to use existing housing stock better and a start would be scrapping right to buy (unless there's like for like replacement), having minimum three year tenancies with no no-fault evictions, and local housing allowance updated annually.

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