A new report by NLP and the Housing the Powerhouse campaign, endorsed by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, warns of serious risks facing the city region in the next 20 years which could derail its position as the engine of the Northern Powerhouse.
The report’s authors claim Greater Manchester’s “current growth, infrastructure investment and ambitious rhetoric are not yet being matched by its planning, housing and development strategy…Greater Manchester risks lagging behind other Northern cities in its housing ambitions, including Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.”
Colin Robinson, planning director at NLP, said: “Our research demonstrates that for the Northern Powerhouse aspirations to become a reality, Greater Manchester must pursue more ambitious, higher levels of housing and employment growth than are currently being proposed in the emerging Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.”
The report, Greater Manchester – The Engine Driving the Powerhouse? was produced by planning and economic consultants Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners and commissioned by the Housing the Powerhouse campaign, made up of housebuilders and other planning advisors. The report finds Greater Manchester’s housing targets (0.8% annual growth as outlined in the emerging Greater Manchester Spatial Framework) are currently below the levels planned by Leeds & Bradford (1.2%), Greater Bristol (1%) and Greater Nottingham (0.9%), “raising questions about whether Greater Manchester’s ambitious rhetoric is matched by the reality of its decision-making.”
The report was launched by Jim McMahon, former leader of Oldham Council and now MP for Oldham West & Royton, at an event on Friday morning in central Manchester.
McMahon said: “The Chancellor’s so-called Northern Powerhouse feels more like a Poorhouse in towns like Oldham where the government is devolving responsibilities whilst cutting resources to the bone. Done right, devolution can empower our communities. Done wrong, it’s just cover for cuts.
“In Oldham, people aren’t impressed by hollow exercises in political branding. George Osborne’s rhetoric goes down badly because it does not come with real freedoms or with genuine financial reform.
“A priority for housing policy should be to get much more out of some of Greater Manchester’s private landlords in return for the Housing Benefit that they receive. In Oldham, too many are happy to take Local Housing Allowance payments whilst letting their tenants’ homes fall into ruin. Housing the Northern Powerhouse must mean tackling problems like that.”
Steve Burne, vice president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and chief executive of AEW Architects, added: “This report highlights what is increasingly evident to businesses in Greater Manchester – that we are on the verge of a major housing crisis if action is not taken soon. House prices and rents are rising rapidly in many parts of the city, and businesses are struggling to attract and retain the skilled staff needed to grow the economy. This was demonstrated by our recent survey of Chamber members which showed over 60% think building more family and affordable homes should be a priority.
“We urge the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to take a strong lead and show the way for the rest of the Northern Powerhouse by developing an ambitious housing and development strategy for the next 20 years.”
The report also draws comparisons with other European cities, such as Nantes and Dortmund, where ambitious housing plans and pro-growth strategies have helped to develop strong and successful economies.
Matthew Good of the Home Builders Federation and member of the Housing the Powerhouse campaign said: “If the dream of a Northern Powerhouse is to be turned into reality a step change in the delivery of new homes in Greater Manchester will be key. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is fundamental to this and provides a once in a generation opportunity for the development of a clear, pro-growth strategy to be implemented.
“This report shows the way forward for Greater Manchester and the lessons it can learn from other successful places when it comes to providing the homes we need for a growing population.”
The Housing the Powerhouse campaign believes housing targets in Greater Manchester should be increased through the GMSF to reflect the region’s role as the engine of the Northern Powerhouse. The draft GMSF is due to be published for consultation in the autumn.
The Housing the Powerhouse campaign says without higher housing targets families will be forced to move away from the city in search of suitable accommodation. There would be a stranglehold on growth, forcing house prices up and pushing productivity down. And Greater Manchester’s position as the engine of the Northern Powerhouse would be put at risk; other city regions such as Leeds and Sheffield propose more ambitious plans. The campaigners say the expected modest targets would fail to provide enough affordable housing for the 85,000 people on social housing waiting lists in Greater Manchester.
The campaign was formed in 2015 and is backed by the Home Builders Federation, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and comprised of Barratt Homes, Bloor Homes, David Wilson Homes, the Emerson Group/Orbit Developments, Gladman Developments, HIMOR Group, Jones Homes, The Peel Group and Taylor Wimpey UK.
Today’s report says the GMSF objectively assessed need (OAN) document proposed a total of 217,350 net additional homes, equating to 10,350 per year, lower than the 10,700 outlined in last year’s initial evidence base consultation, equating to an average increase in dwellings of just 0.8% a year; Housing the Powerhouse proposes a target of 16,000 new homes a year in the GMSF. This would mean a total of 64,000 more homes by 2035 than if the target was 10,350 a year outlined in the latest Objectively Assessed Need document – meaning more growth and jobs, and helping to retain skilled people in Greater Manchester’s Northern Powerhouse economy.