In his speech at the Housing 2023 conference in Manchester last week, Andy Burnham set out a new deal for renters in Greater Manchester, saying that giving everyone a secure home should be a ‘national mission’.
This latest move from the Mayor of Greater Manchester will make the city-region the first in the UK to bring all its rented homes up to the Government’s decent homes standard.
Currently, this standard is only mandatory for socially rented homes, though the Mayor’s intention is to apply it to all rented housing including the private sector.
The new measures, which are expected to be introduced by autumn 2024, will build on the upcoming Renter’s Reform Bill, and are being led by Greater Manchester’s Good Landlord Charter, which aims to empower tenants and improve the quality of social housing by introducing clear, practical, and accessible standards.
Now, the Mayor is calling on the government to back Greater Manchester in these efforts and use the framework of the city-region’s trailblazer devolution deal to create a template for national action against the housing crisis.
Addressing the crowds at Housing 2023, he said: “Our national mission should be to give all people a good, secure home. It is a simple fact that you cannot achieve anything else in life without that foundation beneath you.
You cannot level up any part of the UK when half of its housing stock is falling down and damaging the health of the people who live inside.
He also added that good, safe, and secure housing should fall under UK law as a human right, and that to do so would require a focus on the existing housing stock as well as creating hundreds of thousands of homes for social rent.
Andy Burnham is seeking additional powers to drive improvements in Greater Manchester’s housing sector
The government has previously consulted on requiring all rented housing to meet the requirements of the decent homes standard and may add this to the Renters Reform Bill, but as well as the power to enforce this sooner in Greater Manchester, the Mayor is requesting additional tools.
Among these is the GM Property Check, an inspection regime to find those homes below standards as well as instil confidence in tenants to report poor conditions whilst protecting them from eviction.
A Property Improvement Plan would provide landlords with the tools to improve their properties, while also removing those landlords who are unwilling to meet standards from the sector.
Tenants would also benefit from further protections by enhancing the power of enforcement teams within councils should they encounter issues with landlords or their properties.
Finally, the Mayor is requesting a universal, mandatory Property Portal or register of landlords, which had previously been proposed within the Renters Reform Bill.
The measures will go some way in tackling the current state of renting in the city-region
According to data published earlier this month by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, almost 12% of all homes in Greater Manchester had a category one health and safety hazard in 2019, and over 17% didn’t meet the decent homes standard.
These figures rose to 15% and 26% respectively when it came to the private rented sector, with the latter figure equating to 50,000 homes.
Currently, the government spend £1.5 billion pounds on Greater Manchester’s social and private rented sector through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, with a portion of that public money being utilised to subsidise housing that doesn’t meet the decent home standard, with Universal Credit claimants disproportionately affected.
To address this, Greater Manchester aim to transform their housing sector by joining up different partners at local and national level and adopting a more consistent approach across the private and social rented sectors.
With the aim of giving Universal Credit of Housing Benefit recipients a home that meets the decent homes standard, The Mayor is also calling for a formal, direct, proactive partnership between DWP and local authority enforcement teams.
Greater Manchester’s housing plans will also contribute to their net zero target
The city-region has previously introduced measures designed to improve the housing sector, including a trainee programme to increase the number of housing enforcement officers, as well as investing in upskilling existing officers in areas such as the risks and remediation of damp and mould and excess cold in housing.
It is hoped such measures will also progress Greater Manchester on their journey to net zero by 2038.
Existing targets include delivering 30,000 social rented net zero homes, but with enhanced powers, more homes could be made energy and cost efficient while decreasing carbon emissions.