Manchester City Council

How a Manchester community is protected from short-term lets and investor takeover

The regeneration of Brunswick will see major transformation in the neighbourhood at the fringe of Manchester’s city centre, with major new housing investment and improvement works through to 2038.

The major £100m PFI programme - in partnership with S4B - began in 2014 (contract signed in 2013) and when completed will see more than 500 new family homes – 200 council homes for social rent and 300 homes for sale, while more than 650 homes in the area will be refurbished with new kitchens and bathrooms. 

The wider neighbourhood will see improvements to green spaces, including Gartside Gardens, the introduction of an allotment and new shops.

Well-managed short-term lets in appropriate areas of the city can be positive when they offer tourists or business travellers an alternative option for accommodation. However, it is recognised that poorly managed properties can negatively impact the host community. 

The City Council is now using Brunswick as the blueprint to ensure family homes in similar key regeneration areas are not lost to the investor market or short-term lets, helping to protect and build a long-term community of people. 

To ensure these homes remain in the hands of Manchester residents, strict covenants are in place that prevent properties being sold to private landlords who would likely turn the properties into short-term lets or make available as student homes (Houses of Multiple Occupation), given the close proximity to the city’s universities.

S4B’s sales team initially market the new build homes directly to local people prior to the plots being released on the open market and background checks make sure that the buyers are not investors, while also signing an undertaking to confirm they intend to live in the home.

If a home is sold in the future, the covenants carry over to the next owner continuing to protect the community from the investor market. And if an owner does need to let their home due to a change in circumstances, the property can only be let to a family type household and must be managed through an approved letting agent. 

Nine cases have already been identified and issues resolved around short-term letting, including three court injunctions that have led to costs of more than £2,600 being assigned to residents who have breached the covenants. 

In most cases neighbourhood officers work closely with residents to rectify issues around sub-letting or short-term lets through third party sites, such as Air BnB and Spareroom.com. 

The refurbishment works to each of the 650 existing council homes has now been completed, while 122 council homes for rent and 91 homes for sale have now been built. 

Next year a new 60 apartment Extra Care scheme will also start on site that will provide high-quality accommodation for older people should they wish to downsize from their family homes. 

And around 200 homes for sale are expected to be built in the next three years. 

Cllr Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “Brunswick is an important estate regeneration project that will mean the neighbourhood is transformed with hundreds of new homes, new local services and facilities, and much wanted green space. 

“However, given the close proximity to the city centre and to the city’s universities, Brunswick is a target for the investor and short-term lets market, so it’s vital we do what we can to protect the community from being broken up by private landlords. We need to safeguard family housing in the city and there are lessons we can learn from the Brunswick model.

“This will ensure that communities can continue to grow as long-lasting, sustainable neighbourhoods. And it also means local people are not impacted by anti-social behaviour and potential waste issues that can arise from the more negative end of short-term let businesses.”

Alastair Cooper, Director of S4B, said: “This is an extremely important regeneration project and S4B are delighted to be actively involved in supporting the community in Brunswick.”

Unlike London-based local authorities, where powers over how housing is used is different, current legislation does not require building-owners and property-owners to inform Councils outside of the capital of their intention to use their property for short-term lets.

This creates a huge challenge when trying to tackle the more negative end of the sector as we’ve had to start from scratch to find out which properties are likely being used in a problematic way.

Working proactively, our Council compliance team are currently building a database of short-term lets in the city centre.  They are doing this through intelligence received from the public and complaints received to build up a more accurate picture, and as part of this work we are also working with managing agents and property owners to tackle some of the most prevalent issues. 

We have had positive engagement with the UK Short Term Accommodation Association and we are currently working with them on a Manchester Standard for Short Term lettings, which will engage with and support responsible homeowners and commercial operators in the city.

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