Andy Burnham, GMCA, c PNW

Leaving talk of busses behind for the moment, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has turned his focus onto housing. Credit: PNW

Burnham: GM will aim to fix housing crisis within 10 years

After doubling down on campaign promises to deliver 10,000 council homes within the next mayoral term, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said a suspension of the Right to Buy programme is needed.

“We can’t keep talking about a housing crisis in this country without getting stuck into the detail of what it means to fix it,” Burnham told a group of reporters on Tuesday morning.

“We start by setting a new ambition for the city region to fix the housing crisis within a decade,” he continued.

With the ambition set, Burnham set about teasing how Greater Manchester will set about making it a reality.

Building more social rent homes

He reiterated his plans to have 10,000 social rent homes built before the end of his term in 2028 – at least 1,000 in each borough. By the end of 2037, that number would be 30,000 as described in Places for Everyone.

“There is no solution to the housing crisis unless you start to build more council homes or homes for social rent,” Burnham said.

Burnham will task his team with crafting a delivery strategy for these homes, working with the Greater Manchester Land Commission to see where the public sector estate can be reutilised to provide affordable homes. By helping eliminate land costs, Burnham hopes to address one of the main financial issues facing housing delivery.

“If we’re using public land, then we can make the building of these homes financially more doable because the land creates a subsidy,” Burnham said. “It is a big part of our plan.”

When it came to planning, Burnham was confident that Places for Everyone would resolve most issues social housing providers face.

GMCA’s strategy for social housing delivery will be published before the end of the year and will include the exact number of homes that will be built, the standards they will be built to, and where they will be constructed.

Suspending Right to Buy

Building homes only gets you so far, Burnham said.

“You need to stop the loss of truly affordable homes,” he said. “The reality is the Right to Buy policy, as it currently exists, is actually making the housing crisis worse every year.”

The Right to Buy programme, which allows tenants to buy their council home at a discount, was introduced in 1980 as a flagship policy of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government. Since then, 1.9m homes in England have been sold using the scheme. That number includes 218,200 in the North West, according to statistics from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities.

Receipts from Right to Buy have gone towards replacing 40,900 of those homes in England – and 162 in the North West.

Burnham said that Greater Manchester had experienced a net loss of 500 affordable homes between 2020 and 2023, since the number of homes being constructed is overpowered by the number being lost.

“We liken this to trying to fill a bath with the plug out,” he said. “You can’t do it.”

Burnham said he would seek to suspend the Right to Buy for the 30,000 homes he wants to see built by 2037. He also will lobby for councils to have the right to suspend Right to Buy in areas where there is considerable pressure on the existing council homes.

These suspensions could be indefinite, he said. At the very least, it needs to be done until there are more homes being built than those being lost through Right to Buy, he continued.

“Until you get to that position, I don’t think you could remove that suspension,” Burnham said. “The housing crisis is deepening every year, because of the way the policy is currently working.

“I’m not against people having the right, ultimately, to own their own home. It’s not about that,” Burnham continued.  “It’s just getting it into a more sensible place to support a serious solution to the housing crisis.”


Working with Labour’s front bench

While Burnham fell short of saying that the Labour Party was fully supportive of his plans, he did say he had “very good discussions” with front-bench colleagues about the matter and hopes to deliver it with the support of a new Labour government.

“I think this presents a real opportunity to change the way policy is developed,” Burnham said.

“You’ve got 11 Labour mayors across the big cities of England,” he continued. “I think what we should be working to do for the remainder of this year is put in place a clear plan for housing in all of those places, agreed with colleagues on the front bench, so that delivery can happen quickly with a change of government.”

He added that the capacity to deliver is greater than it had been in 1997, as there is a regional delivery infrastructure in place – the metro mayors – that was not there before.

“We are facing the quite exciting prospect of trying to put these plans forward with a government that backs and is supporting us,” Burnham said. “That could be Greater Manchester’s moment of maximum opportunity and feels like it’s on the horizon.”

‘This is just the start’

In addition to the building of 30,000 social rent properties and the suspension of Right to Buy for those homes, Burnham’s recipe for solving the housing crisis includes the expansion of the A Bed Every Night Scheme and the creation of a Greater Manchester Housing First Unit.

A Bed Every Night provides a bed for those sleeping rough in the city region. The Greater Manchester Housing First Unit would be a group of combined authority employees from across disciplines to explore ways to deliver more council homes and also improve the existing rental stock – both social and market.

He would also introduce a right to a property check for all tenants to ensure where they are living meets standards.

Burnham emphasised that addressing the housing crisis is of the utmost importance for the city region.

“Greater Manchester will never get where I want to get it to if it’s still in the grip of a housing crisis,” he said.

He added later: “This is just the start.”

Your Comments

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Since the 1980s we were told “Marketism” will solve each and every societal problem. What went wrong?

By Anonymous

It’s a shame you didn’t implement the GMSF in 2017. The resultant delay in PFE has been a waste of 7 years. It’s embarrassing.


There is a lot more family housing being built outside GM than in it, when people leave the city centre to buy or start a family it’s usually to Cheshire or Lancashire, some even go as far as North Wales, I went to North Yorkshire as my wife is originally from there and there are a fair few who’ve left Macnhester living here and there are so many affordable new build schemes going up everywhere,

By Anonymous

It might be unpopular amongst would-be buyers, but given the scale of demand, right to buy needs to be ended across the board, including existing council stock, as its very clear that the ones sold are being replaced by fewer, smaller, more expensive properties, if replaced at all.
It’s so difficult to get a family-sized home that anyone who does has to have maximum housing points for personal circumstances/health etc and not be in a position to move into private rented, yet as soon as the RtB discounts start to kick in, a surprising number of the same people’s finances miraculously improve to the point they can get a mortgage or lay their hands on large sums of cash.

By Rupert Rigsby

If AB can tackle affordable housing and homelessness in Manchester, this city will have a more sustained growth compared to any other UK cities. Only a couple of decides ago, most graduates would want to leave the North for London, now no longer the case. There’s something Manchester has got right, but local politicians cannot be complacent.

By Another Manc

The right to buy needs to end full stop, there is not enough housing stock for councils to fulfill waiting lists.

By Anonymous

How does ending right to buy deal with housing crisis ? It neither increases available housing or reduces those needing a home . It’s a typical political approach , all you are doing is putting up the value of privately owned property thus increasing the number of people needing social housing .

By Anonymous

@Another Manc, I think most graduates/young professionals choosing to stay in Mcr has more to do with the affordability issue in London then Mcr being a more attractive place then London. We still do loose the brightest and most talented graduates/ young professionals.

By Anonymous

Greater Manchester is building tonnes of houses. It’s not the number of houses being built, it’s the cost.

By Anonymous

Shame it hasn’t come sooner can’t get a house at all

By Moira

Re. Anon 3.35pm. Firstly because the council/social home stays in the pool to be rented cheaply to someone else who needs it (a lot of ex-social housing is now on the hands of private landlord, with the state picking up the extra cost), although this isn’t a quick fix. It would also cut out the murky practice of investors putting up the money for tenants to do RtB.
Secondly, because even if 100% of the capital receipt was spent on replacing the home sold off (and it isn’t) it wouldn’t cover anything near a like-for-like replacement, generally a family-sized home.
Thirdly, because there is no good reason for transferring public assets on the cheap to a now relatively small section of the population, who already benefit from cheap rents, generally decent homes, and security of tenure.

By Homesunderthehammer

Social housing, should prioritise the low paid and essential workers. Those contributing but struggling to manage.

By Elephant

“When it came to planning, Burnham was confident that Places for Everyone would resolve most issues social housing providers face.” — The affordable homes target of 50,000 and social homes target of 30,000 were deleted from Places for Everyone by the Planning Inspectors because they considered it un-deliverable by Places for Everyone. Burnham’s pulling a fast one!

By Matthew Broadbent

Anonymous at 3.50. Manchester’s average wages are now higher than most London boroughs, on par with Richmond Upon Thames, from the last ONS report, highlighted on this site. I doubt graduates are staying here because it’s cheaper. They are staying here because of the flourishing opportunities. I get tired of people making out, that it is some bargain basement London. Manchester has a way of life just as vivid as the capital.

By Elephant

Yeah yeah! Didn’t he say he’s end homelessness during his last term as well. That’s gone well. I totally agree with him regarding Right to Buy though. It should end though, not just suspended. Also, anyone earning over a certain amount of income and not on benefits, who is still living in social housing, should be told to move to private rental. That would free up a huge amount of housing

By Steve

Moira, why not?

By Anonymous

I can only think of one council in Greater Manchester, Stockport MBC via Stockport Homes, which are still building council housing so relying on councils to ramp up skills and ramp up their risk appetite to deliver this amount of housing will be near impossible. It’s a laudable ambition but delivery will be more problematic than Andy Burnham realises.

By Anonymous

The problem with suspending “right to buy” is that the Conservatives would take the very obvious vote-winning step of offering to reintroduce it. But then Andy Burnham probably hasn’t thought of that.

By Anonymous

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