Manchester – a template for the future of housing?
Burnham used his opening remarks to outline the scale of the problem. “This is a different year, a year to get straight to the point,” he said. “A two year-old boy was killed by his home, in a country as wealthy as the UK.”
“According to government data, 12% of homes have a category 1 health and safety hazard, and 20% don’t meet standards. For homes in private rental, 15% had a category 1 health and safety hazard, and 60% failed basic standards.
"More than one billion pounds is spent on housing people using universal credit, and much of it goes to private landlords to provide housing that damages the health of residents.”
Summarising the pressing need for his plans, Burnham said: “I defy anyone to say we do not have a crisis.”
Labour Mayor lays out his plans
The Mayor’s plans are to put power back in the hands of tenants to take action about the quality of their own accommodation.
The starts with the creation of the Good Landlord Charter, which will articulate a clear set of standards that both private and social landlords will have to meet to be accredited as landlords. “Representatives from both tenants and landlords will be involved in drawing up the detail, and it will be a help to both landlords and tenants,” said Burnham.
The charter aims to give good landlords visibility in their efforts to do the right thing, highlight the quality of their approach, and put the best landlords in the spotlight as a positive example. Funds from the combined local authority will support retrofits where needed to bring more housing in line with quality.
The charter will not just focus on landlords – it will also set out clear expectations on the responsibilities of tenants in accommodation.
However, Burnham addressed the fact that some landlords will have no interest in good practice, and has plans of them as well, saying: “Tenants will have the right to request a property check when dealing with an unresponsive or bad landlord. Multiple agencies, including the fire service, will visit and inspect houses.”
The results of these checks could generate a property improvement notice to bring homes up to a proper standard. If a landlord refuses, enforcement measures follow.
Ultimately, the local authority will seek to take ownership of the property from an unscrupulous landlord.
The plan, according to Burnham, would shift power into the hands of tenants saying: “It’s often low income or Universal Credit tenants that end up in the worst housing. Trapped in housing by a landlord with all the power, this turns the tables by asking the Department of Work and Pensions to liaise directly with landlords of behalf of tenants.”
Manchester’s local efforts would combine with new national laws combatting home quality, and an expansion of the housing stock, which will be combined with the possibility of further expanding the local social housing stock by buying properties from landlords exiting the buy-to-let market.
Burnham described it “…a credible plan to solve the Greater Manchester housing crisis by 2038.”
Time will tell whether the plan is effective, but national election polling results are currently in favour of Burnham’s wider Labour Party.
Some betting markets put a Labour outright victory at as high as 65%, and Keir Starmer as next Prime Minister as high at 77%. The Manchester Mayor would no doubt take heart from Labour signalling strong support for more and better housing in their manifesto.