Demands for Devolution: Housing in Manchester & Salford

Greater_Manchester_CountA Manchester & Salford Housing Action meeting ‘Demands for Devolution: Housing in Manchester & Salford‘ debated the myriad issues contributing to the housing crisis and discussed ways that crisis could be alleviated by the Greater Manchester devolution deal.

The well attended meeting at the Friends Meeting House last Monday discussed issues around homelessness, the private rented sector and social housing. Comprehensive notes of the issues raised during the meeting and forward plans/action points can be found here (short version) and here (longer version).

The information and knowledge gained from the meeting will be forged into a manifesto/key demands for housing in the Greater Manchester region. The final dents in the document will be hammered out at a meeting to be held on April 2nd 2015 at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester, full details to be confirmed.

Video depicting the housing crisis in Manchester

This is what I had to say at the event:

“The housing crisis is hitting Greater Manchester hard just like the rest of the country, however the devolution deal and the upcoming Mayoral election in 2017 offer us unique opportunities to alleviate the housing crisis.

At a Communities and Local Government Committee evidence session held in Manchester Town hall Last October, Tony Lloyd the Interim GM Mayor, Sue Derbyshire (Stockport Council), and Kieran Quinn (Tameside Council) all admitted that the devolution deal was not perfect. They all used the word evolution to describe their plan of improving the devolution deal through further negotiations with central government.

What initially brought me to campaigning on housing and homelessness issues was seeing and supporting the homeless protest camps in Manchester City Centre. The homelessness problem in Manchester is getting worse, the official rough sleepers headcount has been increasing since 2010. The headcount In 2014 came to 47, in 2015 this had raised to 70, however this official headcount is known to underestimate the problem. The possible extent of the underestimate is indicated by the fact in 2014 when the head count was 47, there were 234 separate individuals accessed accommodation under the severe weather protocol. Along with rough sleeping the figures for statutory homeless households and households in temporary accommodation are also increasing in Manchester and across the UK.

You will probably have heard of the recent tragedy concerning Daniel Smith, a 23 yr old homeless man found dead in a burning tent in Salford, a murder investigation is being pursued by Salford Police. The story raises powerful and disturbing images and illustrates the dangerous & unhealthy nature of life on the streets. After hearing a story like that maybe its not surprising that the average age at death for a homeless man is 47 and for a woman 43. Ever increasing numbers of vulnerable people in our society are being brutalised by homelessness, and the increasing levels of homelessness are an obscenity in what claims to be a civilised society. We have to alleviate the plight of the homeless but also make changes that prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.

A significant factor in rising homelessness is the lack of social rented housing. David Cameron recently announced his plans to blitz poverty by demolishing 100 ‘sink’ estates, with promises of replacing all social housing lost. Those promises have been made before and broken, I can’t see this time being any different. One of the estates lined up for demolition is the Falinge estate in Rochdale. We need to turn around the decline of social housing in Grt. Man. and the future of the Falinge estate could be key in that fight.

The private rented sector could be described as flourishing across the UK, but that description only fits when considering the landlords. Tenants have to endure sub standard conditions, insecure tenancies, rogue landlords and rocketing rents. In October 2014 the MEN reported that average private rents had risen by 22% in Grt. Man. over the last twelve months, and this extortionate increase occurs at a time when average real wages are falling. The rise in rents is a major factor contributing to evictions reaching record levels in Grt. Man., with nearly 4000 evictions occurring between April 2013 and March 2015. The Tories got rid of rent controls in the housing bill of 1980, it’s time we brought them back.

The bad news is, that in 2016 the housing crisis can only get worse. Every housing policy, and austerity cut, of the current government makes that a certainty. The good news is that a worsening housing crisis can only make our movement stronger and with hard work we can make a positive change to the housing crisis in Greater Manchester.

What we need to do is influence, or add an element of intelligent design, to the evolution of the devolution deal; by pointing out to these labour run councils their responsibility in relieving the suffering caused by the housing crisis to the people of Grt. Man. We have to make our local councils rediscover their labour values, and then act upon them.”

A petition entitled ‘Manchester City Council: Act to Alleviate the Housing Crisis‘ can be signed and shared here.

Conrad Bower

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Comments (1)

  1. Viv

    Reply

    Sounds like a good evening spent. Suddenly I think we have a buzz word to attack the Govt with and it is reponsibility. The legal cases that are being brought like the bedroom tax case make a really strong point and the more successes through the legal channel the more the ground shifts under their feet.

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