Great Ancoats 1 Manchester C.JoeGardner
Manchester City Council is set to create its own housing delivery vehicle, known as This City. Credit: Joe Gardner for Place North West

First projects revealed for Manchester Council’s housing company

Julia Hatmaker

With goals to deliver 500 new homes a year, This City will focus on creating both market and affordable housing.

This City would not only increase the availability of sustainable housing in Manchester but allow the council to reinvest any profit back into future developments.

Plans for the creation of This City were approved by the council’s executive on 3 June 2020. During the upcoming executive’s meeting on 15 September, an update will be given on This City’s progress, with the council also being asked to increase the budget by £347,000 to cover design team fees. A business case for This City is still being finalised.

Already two schemes are in the works from This City, both in the very early phases of development.

The first project would create 122 new homes on a site in Ancoats & Beswick Ward. Mace is leading the design team, which has reached RIBA Stage 1 with its proposals. The new homes in question would be a mix of apartments and townhouses. At least 37 of them would be let at an accessible rent. Accessible rent is a sub-market rental tenure where homes are rented at or below local housing allowance levels. This is to make homes affordable to households who earn £27,500 a year, the average Manchester wage. A planning application for the project is expected to be submitted in June 2022.

The second scheme is being led by Faithful + Gould and is centred on a site in the Piccadilly Ward. A mini-competition to find an architect to develop plans is underway, but the council said it anticipated that the development would consist of 82 apartments. Of those 82 apartments, 17 would be accessible rent.

This City is using the council’s procurement frameworks for the two projects while it develops its own procurement strategy.

All homes created by This City would also be part of the council’s net zero ambitions, meaning that sustainability measures would have to be included within their design specifications.

According to a council report, This City’s objectives are:

  • Viable proposition – to ensure that as a minimum the company can repay principal and interest finance costs back to the Council
  • Provision of an accessible tenure – that a proportion of each scheme, a minimum of 20%, is let at an accessible rent
  • Sustainability – demonstrate that a high-quality housing product, meeting zero carbon aspirations and providing accessible homes is achievable
  • Retention of control – that the company will retain control of rent setting, management and lettings functions
  • Commercial with a conscience – the company is a trading entity with a key focus on maximising the number of accessible homes that can be delivered through cross-subsidisation from the market rented units and ensuring that the delivery of Social Value is embedded through the companies policies and practices
  • Scalable and adaptable – flexibility in the structure and model of the company in order for delivery to be scaled up and provide a route in for investors, with the ability to deliver up to 500 new homes per year

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It will be interesting to see how the appointed mechanical and electrical design engineers provide sustainable green energy supply to these developments if natural gas is going to be phased out in the next few years ?
Given the fact that Manchester City Council charge unacceptably high Council tax the developments should bring in a lot of money for the Council and that is of course from the day that the developments are ready to be occupied although they might still be empty the developers will have to pay for this out of their profits.

By Paul griffiths

If the swathe of social housing providers were doing their jobs properly then Councils wouldn’t have to come back into direct delivery of housing. Too many have become pseudo property speculators.

By Mark Gilbertson