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Do we need a Greater Manchester social letting agency?

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Published: 02/02/2018   Last Updated: 26/06/2018  
Tags: Blog

While the Chancellor’s announcement in his budget speech of financial support to increase new house building is welcome, this still does not address the ‘here and now’ problem for housing.  His ambition for housing is positive to see but only because we are in the grip of a housing crisis in the UK.  It is generally accepted that the housing market is broken meaning there are not enough homes of every type of tenure which are needed to satisfy the pent up demand that successive governments have failed to meet.

Across Greater Manchester there is an acute lack of affordable homes. The region needs more than 10,000 new affordable homes each year just to meet the existing need.  Moreover, some parts of the region have a housing stock that is not structured to meet the needs of the people either today or tomorrow and it needs investment.  Research has shown that in Manchester only 40% of people living in the private rented sector believe their rent is affordable, and only 49% believe their rent is manageable.

Until we actually start building the number of affordable housing required, then the private rented sector will continue to have a key role to play in providing homes for those in need.  But not at any cost.  At present, there are a number of challenges involving the private rented sector in providing homes for those people with a housing need.

The private rented sector guarantees neither quality nor security and instead in some areas provides poor quality, expensive and inappropriate accommodation for those at the lower end of the rental market.  At this cheaper end of the market, the private rented sector is aimed at and only serves the needs of owners and landlords and not the tenants. It is too unregulated.

There needs to be a more strategic approach that is preventative and proactive in its nature and which ensures the private rented sector provides high quality accommodation to those at the cheaper end of the market, including those on housing benefit.

The answer is the creation of some type of Greater Manchester social lettings agency model.  By doing this we can drive up standards to provide good quality accommodation at LHA rates, provide more homes for those with a housing need, tackle homelessness and potentially help councils to make significant savings to their housing budget.

The creation of a Greater Manchester Housing Provider working group to consider the type of social lettings agency model that might work for Greater Manchester is a step in the right direction.  There are already a number of successful, local social letting agencies, such as Salix Living, operating in parts of Greater Manchester and it is right to explore how their success can be mirrored in other parts of the region.

This group is considering the shape, scale and financing of such a model and how it can work for the whole of Greater Manchester and not just for certain parts, and as a member of this group I for one am very excited to see what answers we come up with.