Elmswood Park, Mosscare St Vincents, c PNW

Moscare St Vincent's Elmswood Park is a 100% social rent extra care project. Credit: PNW

Backing Burnham: Industry supports 10,000 council home pledge

“For too long we have had no meaningful, long-term plan or affordable housing that transcends all parties and political terms,” said Charlie Norman, chief executive of MSV Housing. “This feels like Greater Manchester is taking some control and trying to do things differently.”

Norman was reacting to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s commitment to deliver 10,000 homes for social rent before the end of his mayoral term in 2028, which he announced on Tuesday.

As part of that initiative, he is seeking for a minimum of 1,000 new homes for social rent in each of the city region’s 10 boroughs.

Burnham also said Greater Manchester’s new mission would be to solve the housing crisis within a decade.

To help deliver on that aim, Burnham said he would lobby for powers to suspend Right to Buy for new council homes and within areas where the social housing stock is facing extreme pressure.

Place reached out to a series of housing associations and residential experts to get their take on the ambitious proposals.

‘A tremendous impact’

MSV’s Norman who is also chair of Greater Manchester Housing Providers, said she “wholeheartedly” welcomed Burnham’s plans.

“Building 1,000 new council homes in each Greater Manchester borough by 2028 will have a tremendous impact on local communities,” she continued.

“Building new homes is absolutely vital to address the housing crisis, and we also need to invest in the long-term in existing homes and places, which I hope will be key to the ambitious new plans.”

Matthew Harrison, chief executive of Great Places Housing Group, was also supportive of Burnham’s mission.

“He is absolutely right to say that there will be no fix for the housing crisis without building more social homes,” Harrison said.

“Great Places is currently managing a £1bn social/affordable homes development programme that will deliver thousands of new homes in the next few years, but this is not enough,” Harrison continued.

“We look forward, therefore, to working with the Mayor on his delivery plans and to discussing how our expertise and financial capacity can support him.”

Right to Buy thoughts

Andrea Thorn, director of homes and communities at The Riverside Group, seconded the Mayor’s proposals concerning Right to Buy.

“The Mayor is right to raise concerns around Right to Buy and it is vital at a time of national housing crisis that we do not take homes out the sector without an instant like-for-like equivalent property in terms of size and rent,” she said.

Suzanne Benson, national head of real estate at Trowers & Hamlins, warned that suspending Right to Buy may be more difficult than Burnham thinks.

“Right to Buy can be a divisive policy which has seen further loss of available social homes in recent years, following the increase in the available discount,” she said.

“A move to slow this trend will be welcomed by many.

“RTB, however, does apply equally across the country and is a legal right given to qualifying tenants,” she continued. “Any plan to take a localised approach to restrict its application across new housing stock in GM will need to effectively navigate both of these challenges

Karen Mitchell, chief executive of Southway Housing Trust, was supportive of Burnham’s Right to Buy approach.

“Last year at Southway, 17 social homes were purchased through the Right to Buy scheme and we welcome initiatives and ongoing discussion to find solutions to replace and increase the housing supply for those most in need,” she said.

“In Manchester, it’s particularly challenging to find suitable land to do this and we work closely with the local authority to find innovative ways to build a range of affordable homes, including re-using brownfield sites, to help address the housing crisis.”

Leveraging the public estate

Burnham’s plans directly lean into Mitchell’s concern over the lack of land. Burnham said he would work with the Greater Manchester Land Commission to find sites within the public sector estate that could be freed up for affordable homes.

This push to use public land was welcomed by all those Place spoke with.

“Social housing can be incredibly challenging to deliver at scale because of the level of investment needed and it invariably needs public sector assistance to be viable,” said Trowers & Hamlins’ Benson.

“The suggestion of working with the Greater Manchester Land Commission to devise ways to use land value to support delivery may be key here in providing real opportunity to unlock schemes and promote partnerships.”

Cushman & Wakefield’s head of the Manchester office, Caroline Baker, pointed to the wider benefits.

“Having a roof over your head is the foundation to education performance, health, wellbeing, and productivity,” she said.

“Utilising public land, focusing funds on well-connected brownfield sites (especially in our town centres) to unlock housing where viability is an issue and improving the efficiency of planning decisions, will boost inclusive economic growth across Greater Manchester.”

Burnham said that by using public land he hoped it would help solve one of the financial obstacles facing affordable housing delivery.

The planning problem (or lack thereof?)

Where the use of public land may alleviate certain financial hold-ups towards housing delivery, Burnham hopes that Places for Everyone’s adoption will solve any planning woes.

“Greater Manchester has put in place a framework – Places for Everyone – that nine of our 10 councils are part of,” Burnham said. “We have gone through some difficult debates about planning and land allocation in our city region. Because of that, that [planning] won’t delay us now that we’ve got a plan that has been adopted. That’s a strong position for us to be in.”

While Paul Smith, managing director of The Strategic Land Group, applauded Burnham’s focus on housing he did issue a note of caution when it came to leaning too heavily on Places for Everyone solving all planning problems.

“Over the last decade, house prices in the city have risen by more than basically anywhere else in the UK,” Smith said. “Just six of the 10 authorities in Greater Manchester delivered enough new homes over the last three years.

“Delivering more affordable homes has to be a part of the solution, and finding ways for councils to build more will make an important contribution,” Smith continued.

“We shouldn’t, however, lose site of the bigger picture,” he went on. “Although Places for Everyone has now been adopted, it only allocates enough new development sites to meet around 10% of the region’s housing need – and, of course, none at all in Stockport.

“The inspectors examining the plan recognised that of the other sites the GMCA is relying on to meet housing need, fewer than 70% are viable even with solely market homes,” Smith continued.

“The bulk of the heavy lifting therefore remains to be done through the local plans that will now need to follow. Places for Everyone has shown us how politically contentious that process can be and it is important that the Mayor uses his mandate to help push those plans through.”

Delivery in partnership

In addition to using his mandate, Burnham would do well to work alongside industry to deliver on his council home pledge. Housing associations will also need to band together to turn Burnham’s vision into a reality.

Great Places’ Harrison emphasised the need for a partnership approach.

“The scale of the challenge we face in Greater Manchester cannot be underestimated,” he said.

“It’s clear that the continued combined efforts of all delivery partners working together will remain crucial if we are going to realise the Mayor’s ambition to deliver a long-term solution to a crisis that has such a negative impact on the lives and life chances of so many people.”

Your Comments

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We need a reformed planning system which puts NIMBYs very much on the back peg. The reason the UK hasn’t delivered enough homes, the reason productivity is so low, the reason our infrastructure is crumbling and our economy stagnating is largely due to NIMBYs having far too much say in our planning system, with many local councillors unwilling to stand up to them for fear of political fallout

By Anonymous

There is already far too much council housing in Manchester

By Anonymous

I agree with anonymous 10.59. The reason why HS2 was delayed and eventually cancelled, was due to pandering to NIMBYs in Buckinghamshire building unneeded tunnels costing billions. Liz Truss got one thing right, when she said, these people have too much power. The Greenbelt Gestapo, protecting ugly scrubland and trying to make out its Ullswater, as they don’t want their view spoiling, when young people need affordable homes. This country is held back by these selfish people at every turn.

By Elephant

The UK population has surged by millions thanks to immigrants over recent years. Where are we going to put all the tents for them to live in?

By Anonymous

Sounds lovely. Let’s see if it happens. We are still waiting on the eradication of homelessness s as promised by AB first time round. Of course the industry is backing this position, Andy Burnham’s job is to make sure the makes the opportunity happen.

By Dan H

Who is paying for these council houses to be built?
Burnham is very good at spending other people’s money!
Lower council tax payments, why am I paying for homeless layabouts whom have dropped out of the workforce?
Burnham, needs to jog on and continue his Johnny Cash tribute act elsewhere!

By Manc

There is very little evidence to support the view that the planning system affording NIMBYs the opportunity to stop development is the reason why the UK hasn’t delivered enough homes for decades. There is substantially greater evidence to show that the development industry deliberately doesn’t seek to meet needs because suppressing supply results in an ability to increase prices. Conversely, meeting needs would result in prices (and therefore developer profit) coming down. We haven’t met housing needs in this country for basically the entire period since we began relying on the private sector development industry.

By Martin Cranmer

@Manc – it pays for itself, over time, because the public sector reduces the liability it has in relation to paying housing benefits directly into the pockets of private sector landlords. The continued inadequate provision of publicly provided housing results in one of the largest transfers of public money into private hands of any we’ve seen in the capitalist era.

By Martin Cranmer

Apparently SGMGB are filing for a judicial review of Places for Everyone. We should get behind the NIMBYs on this one, because if 10.59 get his way Greater Manchester will be turned into a massive slum by Burnham and his ilk. Given that we are breeding below replacement level there is absolutely no reason for a housing crisis—what we have is an immigration crisis! We need to tackle the cause, not the symptom, and then there will be no need to deface our beautiful landscapes…

By Anonymous

I support Andy Burnham in trying to stop the Right to Buy policy. This has gone on for far too long, selling off Council properties and not rebuilding, all it has done is put money in the Conservatives pockets and make for a shortage on Social Housing.

By Mrs S Riding

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