The Government will give almost £3.8m to the city region-wide approach in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, the UK’s first devolved homelessness package, but Metro Mayor Andy Burnham has said more needs to be done.
Prime Minister Theresa May met with Burnham yesterday to discuss housing in the region ahead of the funding announcement. Burnham said the money will create a social housing letting agency across Greater Manchester to help people struggling to find secure accommodation. It could also see services such as drug and alcohol centres open 24 hours a day and the development of a shared database system that the 10 local authorities will use to enhance communication about homeless people.
The money will enable the roll out of Homelessness Action Network which aims to connect homelessness organisations across the region, and will build on the devolution agreement around health by offering tailored services for homeless people.
May also said that progress was being made with the Mayor on a housing deal to accelerate the delivery of new homes in the region, which is likely to be announced early next year.
Burnham said: “This extra help is well-timed, much-needed and good news for Greater Manchester. It is a recognition of the innovative work underway here to help people sleeping rough, bringing together our public, private and voluntary sectors in a ground-breaking partnership.
“The Prime Minister came here and gave us the best part of an hour though it doesn’t yet add up to a major commitment to the Northern Powerhouse. The money is not enough. But the fact she’s back her one week after the conference in Manchester with something to provide to Greater Manchester shows something positive to me.”
Burnham said he had voiced concerns to the Prime Minister on the effects of universal credit. He said: “If universal credit is rolled out it will overwhelm all the good that’s been done. I showed her evidence from the pilot which showed how 80% of people on universal credit in Greater Manchester ended up in rent arrears.”
Next week, the city council’s executive will discuss a £2m proposal for an annual Housing Affordability Fund to address some of these issues.
Paul Dennett, GMCA’s portfolio holder for housing, planning and homelessness, said: “There’s a scheme in Cheetham Hill already and there’s also a 38-bed scheme in Chorlton. We’ve been getting on with it and working with the 10 local authorities and the money will go some way towards more of these, but not far enough.
“Over 84,000 people are on our housing waiting list and we’ve seen a 236% rise in temporary accommodation since 2010. We’re losing council housing at a ratio of 10 to one where 10 are being purchased for right to buy and only one is replacing that.”
The housing white paper published earlier this year agreed bespoke housing deals with authorities in high demand areas, and Greater Manchester has already received a £1.8m bond to provide personalised support for long-term rough sleepers.
The national homelessness package includes investing £550m until 2020 for support and prevention programmes, as well as implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act. At the Conservative Party conference last week, May also announced a further £2bn for affordable housing funding.