- Mayor Andy Burnham outlines new deal for renters with integrated, place-based approach, making Greater Manchester the first city-region to bring all rented homes up to the Government’s decent homes standard
- Greater Manchester will introduce UK-first Good Landlord Charter to recognise best practice and boost tenant confidence in quality of rental properties
- Starting in 2024, new measures – underpinned by unique GM Property Check system – would enable councils to intervene and acquire properties from landlords who are unable or unwilling to meet decency standards, empowering tenants to request checks
- Enhanced powers and resources would see city-region work with Government to rebuild a housing system fit to deal with the housing crisis and future need, and put an end to public money subsidising non-decent homes
- Powers would sit within the framework of the city-region’s trailblazer devolution deal, boosting Greater Manchester’s efforts to tackle poor housing, including training new enforcement officers, and serve as a template for national action
- City-region’s net-zero and technical education ambitions to be boosted though plan
MAYOR of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is to set out a new deal for renters in Greater Manchester and make the city-region the first in the country where every rented home must be above the decent homes standard – backed by a ground-breaking package of measures to empower and protect tenants.
The Mayor will call on the Government to back the city-region with a set of new or enhanced powers and resources, using the framework of the city-region’s trailblazer devolution deal, with the aim of shaping a template for national action on the housing crisis.
The intention would be to bring in the new set of measures in place by autumn 2024, building on the forthcoming Renter’s Reform Bill and driven by Greater Manchester’s Good Landlord Charter, enabling the city-region to get on with the job of bringing all rented homes up to the decent homes standard – a standard currently only applicable to socially rented homes but not the private rented sector.
The Mayor will encourage landlords and Ministers to support this ambitious vision, with the aim of working together to intervene swiftly where action is needed.
In a speech at the Housing 2023 conference in Manchester on Tuesday 27 June, the Mayor 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.
“And to those who ask whether it is affordable? It is our failure to provide it that leads to the waste of billions of public money dealing with social crises that come from the lack of it. Good housing is true prevention.
”Personally, I believe we will only get the sea change on housing that we need when we make a good, safe, secure home a human right in UK law.
“That change would require action on many more levels – including much great focus on the state of the existing housing stock and the urgent need to build hundreds of thousands of homes for social rent.
“Until that time, we are using what powers we have in our Trailblazer Devolution deal to set ourselves a 15-year new mission for Greater Manchester: a healthy home for all by 2038.
“In simple terms, that means a home that doesn’t damage your physical health through damp, mould and other physical hazards and doesn’t harm your mental health because you live in fear of eviction.
“To achieve this, we are proposing a complete re-wiring of the system to put power in the hands of tenants – but, in doing so, make it work better for everyone: tenants, landlords and local communities.”
Rewiring housing in Greater Manchester
The Mayor is calling on Ministers to give the city-region the ability to apply a mandatory and ambitious decent homes standard to all rented homes – something which Government has already consulted upon and may add to the Renters Reform Bill – alongside a new set of tools to drive improvements in the sector, including:
- A package of UK-leading tenant protection measures, starting with an independent ‘GM Property Check’ inspection regime of rented properties to find those homes below standards, which would empower tenants to report poor conditions and call for improvement while protecting them from eviction
- The ability to create a ‘Property Improvement Plan’ for every rented home, giving landlords a tailored blueprint to get each of their properties up to the decent homes standard and beyond, and connecting them to funding and skilled contractors who can get the work done
- Giving the city-region the powers to acquire properties from landlords who are unable or unwilling to meet standards, ensuring poor landlords exit the sector while retaining and improving their properties for local residents
- Enhanced enforcement teams within councils with the powers to protect tenants if they have problems with their landlord or home
- A universal, mandatory Property Portal or register of landlords – a measure proposed within the Renters Reform Bill
Taken together, and with the funding behind them to make them stick, these powers would ensure that every renter within the city-region would live in a home that is safe, secure, affordable, healthy and environmentally sustainable.
A new plan for checks and changes
Greater Manchester has already kick-started action to drive up standards in the private and social rented sectors and recognise good rental practices across the city-region. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is currently working with partners and stakeholders to develop a ground-breaking Good Landlord Charter, with the aim of setting out clear, practical, and accessible standards to recognise good practice, empower tenants, and drive up the quality of renting in the city-region.
Decent landlords would receive recognition for their approach, while tenants would have a clearly defined expectation from their landlord. Where landlords are not maintaining their properties to a decent standard, they will face action underpinned by a unique ‘Property Check’ system: a regular, independent inspection against a transparent set of standards. The checks and subsequent certificates will provide tenants with more information about their homes, while landlords will be presented with tailored, practical improvement plans to address any health and safety hazards.
Crucially, tenants would be protected throughout this process, and if a landlord fails to make the required improvements there would be a clear route to enforcement action by local authorities.
The scale of the problem
Experimental official data published for the first time this month by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show that in 2019 almost 12 per cent of all homes in Greater Manchester had a category one health and safety hazard – the most serious category where a hazard poses a serious risk of harm – while over 17 per cent did not meet the current decent homes standard. In the private rented sector these figures rise to more than 15 per cent with a category one hazard, and over 26 per cent that would not meet the decent homes standard – equivalent to around 50,000 homes. Given the challenges around sourcing data from across the breadth of the housing sector, these numbers – based on DLUHC modelling – may not reflect the actual scale of the problem.
Greater Manchester is putting forward a vision to transform housing in the city-region, joining up different partners at local and national level and adopting a more consistent approach across the private and social rented sectors. This includes stepping in where public money is effectively being used to subsidise housing that doesn’t meet the decent home standard – a situation that disproportionately affects Universal Credit claimants.
In Greater Manchester’s private rented sector alone, the Government currently spends more than half a billion pounds annually through the housing element of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, with no assurance about the quality of the homes that landlords are providing. When taking into account social housing as well, that number rises to £1.5bn. Across the whole of England, the total spend of the Universal Credit housing element and Housing Benefit is forecast by the DWP to hit £30.9bn this financial year, with £10.7bn of that going to help tenants in the private rented sector.
ONS statistics show the rate of increase in rents for all tenancies at an unprecedented 4.8 per cent in the North West in the year to April 2023. Research conducted by Dataloft for the GMCA last year found that rents on new tenancies were rising much faster, up 12 per cent across Greater Manchester between April and October 2022. The research also found that only four per cent of new tenancies in Greater Manchester were affordable within Local Housing Allowance rates. This contrasts sharply with the 30 per cent of properties that were affordable within Local Housing Allowance rates when they were frozen less than three years earlier.
Given their immense leverage in the housing market, the Mayor is also calling for a formal, direct, proactive partnership between DWP and local authority enforcement teams, so that tenants who rely on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to help pay their rent can expect their homes to meet the decent homes standard.
Taking action now in Greater Manchester
The city-region has already taken steps to drive improvements to homes in the private and social rented sector. As well as the Good Landlord Charter, ongoing initiatives include a trainee programme to bring in a new generation of housing enforcement officers across the city-region, and investment in upskilling officers who are already working in our local authorities, including providing specific training for all enforcement officers in the risks and remediation of damp and mould and excess cold in housing.
Driving these improvements in housing standards would also boost Greater Manchester’s 2038 net zero target. Delivering new homes that are net zero carbon by design, and with affordability and healthy living built in from day one, including 30,000 social rented net zero homes is a key existing target. However, with further powers to improve homes, the city-region would also be making more homes energy- and cost-efficient to heat and cool while massively reducing carbon emissions. This also links to Greater Manchester technical education ambitions, with the need for a workforce skilled in the trades and professions required to deliver a substantial, extended programme of home improvements being clear.
 DLUHC, English Housing Survey: local authority housing stock condition modelling, 2019; June 2023.
 ONS, Index of Private Housing Rental Prices, UK: April 2023
 Dataloft research for GMCA, November 2022
Article Published: 27/06/2023 13:48 PM