New housing policies in Manchester won't work without stock says council leader

Revamping housing allocation policies will only work if councils have enough housing stock, Manchester’s town hall leader has said.

Manchester council lost 421 homes through Right to Buy during the last financial year and Sir Richard Leese said that improving allocation policies wouldn’t make a ‘jot of difference’ if councils don’t have the necessary housing stock.

He was speaking at Friday’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting, where Salford mayor Paul Dennett was announcing the new region-wide housing policy.

Mr Dennett’s recommendations include creating a Greater Manchester ‘good landlord’ scheme, continue with A Bed Every Night rough sleeping programme and set a region-wide definition of ‘affordability’.

His plan also calls for greater alignment on the way town halls decide who can have a council house.

Manchester council leader Sir Richard said the city region should aspire to a joined-up allocation policy and Manchester would ‘play its part’ in delivering the strategy.

But he said: “Having more effective housing allocation policies will not make one jot of difference to the fact that we do not have enough housing to allocate in the first place – and the situation is getting worse.”

I think in the last financial year Manchester lost something like 450 social houses through Right To Buy – and that rate of attrition just makes the problem worse,” he added.

He said that the government’s definition of affordable – 80 percent of the market rate – ‘doesn’t work’ and said that for people on very low incomes or those reliant on housing benefits, social housing is preferable to the private sector.

Private rented sector basically just means there is an enormous benefit bill,” he said.

“Social housing might cost more through up-front in capital subsidy, but there’d been an enormous saving in the year-on-year benefits bill,” he added.

For this reason, he said big private developments are better off providing so-called ‘106’ money to go towards the council’s affordable housing pot, rather than providing ‘affordable’ housing within their developments.

Last year Manchester council agreed to look at the ‘feasibility’ of building council housing in the city centre for the first time in decades, as well as planning thousands of ‘genuinely affordable’ homes across the city by 2028.

And the town hall last month launched a public consultation on its housing allocation policy that would see vulnerable people prioritised. 
It also asks whether people in overcrowded households should be prioritised, and if people should have spent a minimum of two years in the city before joining the register.


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