BIG ISSUE NORTH 4 - 10 JULY Please buy a copy when you see a seller
Manchester housing schemes unaffordable
Council says social housing is “unviable”
Manchester City Council has defended approving two major new private renting housing schemes – including one in which it is a development partner – even though neither includes any social or affordable housing.
More than 800 private rented apartments have been approved by the council’s planning committee in the two schemes.
But although there are 14,000 people on the council’s housing waiting list and homelessness is on the rise, none of them will have rents capped at an affordable level – usually defined as 80 per cent of the normal market rent.
Patrizia UK will now create a 624-apartment complex on the First Street site, already the location of new offices and the Home arts centre.
On the other side of the city, Manchester Life Development Company – a joint venture between the council, Manchester City FC owner Abu Dhabi United Group and Blossom Iron Developments – will be building 62 one- bedroom, 116 two-bedroom and seven three-bedroom apartments along with 14 ground-floor townhouses on a 1.8 acre site in Ancoats. The development has benefited with an investment of £7.9 million from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Affordable housing is created through negotiations between house builders and local authorities when planning approval is sought. In the case of the Ancoats and First Street schemes, a Manchester City Council spokesperson told Big Issue North there was no affordable housing specified because “the schemes would be unviable and would not have reached development stage should an affordable quota be attached to the planning approvals”.
When asked how these developments might assist those on its waiting list, Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Our key priority is to build more homes whilst balancing the city’s housing provision to suit as many people as possible. In Manchester, one in three properties are social rent – which we believe is the appropriate share – and a significant amount are what are considered affordable properties compared to many other large cities.
“The fastest growing sector is private rented and we are engaged in ensuring high quality development to meet the needs of the city’s population growth and to protect the interest of residents.”
However, the new developments have been criticised by campaigning body Defend Council Housing, whose chairperson Eileen Short said: “They aren’t going to bring down the waiting list or reduce homelessness. Many people can’t afford private renting costs and buying is a dream.
“Councils and the government are continuing to get rid of council and housing association housing when we need more of it. The Housing Act will make things worse as housing associations are going to start selling off some of their properties.
“We need councils to sit down with their tenants, those on the waiting list and housing campaigners to work out how we are going to resist the government – and not do their dirty work for them.”
Andy Burham, the MP for Leigh who hopes to be Labour’s candidate in the Greater Manchester mayoral elections next year, said: “The seeds of this housing crisis lie with Margaret Thatcher and her selling-off of council houses in the 1980s and 1990s whilst prohibiting the use of the proceeds to build more homes.”
He said he was concerned that the mayor’s £300 million Housing Fund was intended to pay for similar schemes to the First Street and Ancoats ones.
“My top priority will be to encourage a substantial increase in council and social housing in all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester,” he said. “The majority of the Housing Fund should be used to provide loans and guarantees to our councils and housing associations to expand the public housing stock and build the affordable homes for rent that we need.”
According to a Patrizia statement: “Manchester is one of the most sought-after cities in the UK for property investment. There is a particular appetite for PRS [private rented sector] development, driven by a lack of good quality private rental accommodation, a thriving employment market, and a city council focused on the benefits of regeneration.”