Yesterday, as keynote speaker at The Future of Housing in Greater Manchester Conference, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, further unveiled plans for Salford Council to build private sale and rent housing...
"In Salford we've nearly finalised a model for a housing company working in partnership with our housing associations to build our own homes for sale, rent and affordable rent" he explained "We're also considering drawing housing off the shelf for our city's residents with a mixed tenure of rent appealing to different ranges of social need.
"The key to unlock this is the self financing nature of it" he added "Our sales and market rent subsidise our affordable rent, allowing for the company to pay for itself."
There is already a private limited company called Derive (Salford) Limited set up at Companies House, with councillors John Merry and Paul Longshaw as directors, and at the previous day's full council meeting Dennett had stated that "We aim to build the first council houses in decades before the end of this year.
"We're doing this by cross subsidising council rents by entering into the rental market as a landlord and making commercial profit to benefit the people of this city" he added "These policies are the essence of the enterprising state, an approach at the heart of Labour's Manifesto..."
There's been no reports published yet by the Council on the costings for this enterprise but in the Salford social housing world it's a growing practice...
Salix Homes has told residents at Canon Green Court that the only way it can fulfil its promise of bringing their social rent homes up to a decent standard is to build private sale and rent properties within the footprint of their blocks to plug a shortfall of £1.8million (see here). The company is acting in a similar manner on the Poets Estate.
Meanwhile, City West Housing is moving away from social rent to market rent and so-called 'affordable rent' (not affordable), and has acquired 154 new PRS (Private Rent Sector) apartments in Ordsall (see here).
Salford's plan to build for-profit housing was the central plank when Paul Dennett, as GM Mayor, Andy Burnham's lead for 'housing, planning and homelessness', laid out his 'vision' for housing across Greater Manchester at the Conference hosted by the National Housing Federation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The 'vision' didn't actually amount to much, as Dennett spent most of his speech detailing what was wrong with the state of housing and planning, rather than present any absolute detail, apart from the Salford Council model.
He stated the obvious, that "Homes are becoming unaffordable for the vast majority of people", that the housing market has become an "investment vehicle for global capital", and that the Tory Government's NPPF, or National Planning Policy Framework, had allowed developers to evade Section 106 payments and choose to build expensive apartments over social rent properties.
Meanwhile tenants were hammered by benefit caps and Bedroom Tax, the 1% reduction in social rents had curtailed building of new affordable properties, and the Right To Buy had stripped councils of assets. Over the last three years, he stated, 1,118 council houses were sold through Right To Buy within Greater Manchester, while only 310 homes for social rent had actually been built.
What was needed to solve the huge undersupply of housing was a 'strategic' approach to planning and a "delivery vehicle dedicated to the delivery of accommodation defined by existing social need and with the resources to deliver on a large scale...
"We also need to develop partnerships with private sector developers and housing associations who understand their social obligation, developers who see things as more complicated than simply the bottom line" he added "Developers that take pride in Greater Manchester...and truly feel their obligations to serve the people..."
And that was it really. The speech was well received by representatives of housing associations, councils and other housing organisations. But the elephant in the room was the lack of any actual residents.
The protests by homeless people outside of Salford Lads Club failed to materialise as they were too busy defending their squats, while two members of Salford and Manchester Street Support, which actually works with rough sleepers, were denied access to the Conference, despite one of them being a Salford Poverty Commissioner...
"We received an email giving details of the Conference but each time we tried to register it failed" said Street Support's Collette "We came in the hope that there might be a few empty seats and were rudely turned away."
..."I can't see what those people in that room can do to solve the housing crisis, they don't know what's going on" explained fellow street worker, Angela "They tick boxes, they don't see people's lives being destroyed on the streets every day. We were here to ask basic questions about what they're going to do about single bedroom affordable accommodation that's needed urgently now.
"We are the people who work on the street with all different age groups and there's no support in place and no safety net" she added "If they don't involve grass roots people nothing is going to get resolved."
Inside the Conference, Ed Garner, a delegate from Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre, told of his concern that two street workers were excluded and left outside... "It's so important we work with the homeless" he said.
The Salford Star reporter did put the question to the Salford Mayor...
'What is your strategy going to do for homeless people who are on the streets now and are occupying buildings now' we asked 'All they're seeing is them being kicked out of empty buildings, particularly the Hotspur Press Building, and the threat of eviction at the Cornerhouse... Where is the empathy with those people?'
"On homelessness, Andy [Burnham] has pledged to end rough sleeping by 2020" Dennett responded "...My job is to work with Andy, work with the networks with the fund that Andy has set up as well. But also more importantly, work with people who have either been homeless or are currently homeless to devise a strategy to end rough sleeping – and that is going to be launched, I understand, towards the end of this month and hopefully we can engage the homeless people in that strategy.*
"The other side is how we finance all this, and I am aware of bids into Government for how we tackle homelessness in Greater Manchester" he added "At the moment we're still waiting for some of that money to be actually confirmed, and once we have downloaded that money from Department of Communities and Local Government there's a conversation as to what we do with that money to actually tackle rough sleeping. We are genuinely committed to working with homeless people within Greater Manchester."
The need for immediate action was underlined by Catherine, who runs the homelessness advisory service for Oldham Council. She said there were 18,000 people on the waiting list; they manage 12,000 homes and, last week, had only two properties to let, one of which was an already allocated bungalow...
The Salford Star also slated the Mayor for the amount of affordable housing that has been bulldozed within Salford, and is still being bulldozed in Pendleton, to be replaced by private sale housing (see here).
He had nothing to say on this. But did take on board a further call from the Star for a hotel bedroom tax which would bring in £millions to help solve homelessness in Greater Manchester (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
After the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had presented its report on 'Tackling poverty through housing and planning'** and the Greater Manchester Housing Providers had reiterated their pledge on helping to solve poverty, Fay Selvan, Chief Executive of the Big Life Group, called for ethical housing providers and campaigners to 'reclaim our language', giving the example of 'affordable housing' that isn't affordable at all but 80% of market rent.
She added that social housing is no longer a safety net for the vulnerable, as evictions rise for people caught up in benefit changes, and fifty per cent of children in poverty now live in private rent sector housing. More tellingly, she noted that, at Conferences such as these, "We're talking to ourselves..."
* Andy Burnham is holding the first meeting of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network at Salford University on 25th July. Only those in the know, knew about it and it is already sold out, so Salford and Manchester Street Support and others will again be excluded from the event (see here)
** To read the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on 'Tackling poverty through housing and planning'- click here