Greater Manchester’s mayor has outlined bold proposals to increase housebuilding and tackle homelessness across the region.
Speaking at the Housing 2017 conference in Manchester this week Andy Burnham said he wanted to “end the scandal of homelessness” but added this would require “a major shift in our mindset and a much more interventionist approach than we have previously had” in relation to developing housing policy.
The Labour politician wants to introduce a “good landlords scheme” and use compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers to buy properties off bad landlords and add them to the social housing stock.
Mr Burnham said parts of the region were “bedevilled” by landlords who invest little to nothing in the upkeep of homes.
“That isn’t acceptable and we have got to signal we are not prepared for that to continue anymore,” he said. “I want to work with councils, the courts, and the government so we can agree an earn back scheme in relation to housing benefit so that if we go after landlords that won’t join the good landlords scheme we can use public funds to CPO them and bring those properties back into the public housing stock and lift the quality of housing accommodation in those communities.”
While councils were provided with greater powers to tackle rogue landlords in April, in the last days of the coalition government legislation was introduced which requires local authorities to seek the communities secretary’s approval to introduce a selective licensing scheme for landlords which covers more than 20% of the area or affects more than 20% of the privately rented homes in an area.
Mr Burnham accepted his ‘good landlords scheme’ would have to be voluntary but added it would “isolate” bad landlords if they did not sign up.
“It’s complicated but we should use the powers of CPO to go after them and we should signal to the courts we will be doing that and seeking their help,” he said. “We won’t do it frivolously. We will do it where a private landlord is putting their tenants in unsafe conditions and dragging the local community down as well.”
Mr Burnham said housing policy is “way too centralised” and “developer-led” which in turn has left “councils with their hands tied”.
The region’s spatial framework, which he has called in for a “radical rewrite”, reflected the developer-led approach instead of creating “more sustainable” communities, he said.
Mr Burnham wants to see a greater emphasis on higher density development in town centres linked to public transport and “a greater mix of housing types and tenures”. He added: “That might mean building more homes in the council and not-for-profit sector.”
Greater Manchester has a £300m housing fund which can provide loans to kickstart developments. When the money is repaid it can be reinvested.
Mr Burnham said it needed to spent outside Manchester city centre in the future.
“As those loans are repaid we will refocus that money more on council housing and social housing to ensure we get the right mix in housing across Greater Manchester,” he said.
Devolution had, however, provided “hope”, he said. “I believe it’s the best chance of creating a housing policy that is right for these communities and actually deals with the housing crisis.”