Greater Manchester's next mayor must solve its housing emergency

Greater Manchester's next mayor must solve its housing emergency

Greater Manchester faces a housing emergency. Tackling skyrocketing rents and a severe lack of social housing, the next mayor must prioritise safe, affordable and secure homes for their constituents.

On 6 May 2021, Greater Manchester residents have the chance to vote for the new mayor of the city region. They will head up the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities and develop a devolved, collaborative strategy across the ten Greater Manchester Boroughs. The mayor also incorporates the Police and Crime Commissioner role of the Greater Manchester Police into the post. In addition, the mayor has authority over strategic, transport, adult education and skills, social care and – most importantly for us at our Manchester hub – housing and planning.

The incumbent mayor, Andy Burnham, is standing again for the Labour Party – alongside Laura Evans for the Conservatives, Simon Lepori for the Liberal Democrats, and Melanie Horrocks for the Green Party. We have approached these main candidates to ask for their visions for housing in Greater Manchester. We will share their responses as they come[1]. You can visit the Who Can I Vote For website for a full list of everyone standing.

Housing is a widespread issue

Throughout the last year, we’ve seen just how urgent the need is for everyone to have access to a safe, secure, and affordable home. At our Manchester hub, we’re working with people caught in the collision between the housing crisis that already gripped the country, and the public health crisis caused by coronavirus (COVID-19). There are people at the sharp end, who are forced to sleep rough, and then 78,000 households on waiting lists for social housing, 3,000 families in temporary accommodation, and renters struggling in poor quality, unaffordable homes.

Our Advice, Support and Guidance team in Greater Manchester works with people from our community every day who are facing real hardship because of the housing emergency. This reflects the challenges many families face daily across Greater Manchester, as our adviser, Louis, explains.

We come across many families that are trapped in overcrowded social housing. The parents realise that their chance of moving into a larger social housing property is a distant proposition, but they persevere with bidding as they are desperate. They worry how the overcrowding will affect their children’s education and life chances. One family we’re assisting in social housing lives in a two-bedroom property. Two of the four children are disabled, and the overcrowded living conditions contribute to the daily pressure the family is under.

Shelter adviser, Louis

These are real people facing very real challenges. Sarah is a lone parent, who lives in a two-bedroom social housing property with her four children. Her two-year-old daughter is autistic and sleeps with her mum in one bedroom. Her three-year-old boy is also autistic and shares a bedroom with his two older brothers, who sleep in bunk beds, whilst the youngest sleeps on the floor. The bedtime environment is overstimulating and a lack of sleep at night time for the youngest boy means that he is overtired during the day, which is negatively affecting his behaviour. The overall pressure of Sarah’s living conditions impacts her mental health and wellbeing. She is desperate to move to a larger property that’s suitable for her family’s needs and is listed as ‘Band 3’ on the local housing register, Manchester Move, as she’s deemed to be overcrowded by one bedroom. But there is no realistic prospect of Sarah obtaining a larger social housing property in the near future because waiting times on this register are so long – it could be years before she is offered a home. As such, she is worried about her children’s education and how they will cope in the future.

To ensure a sustainable future, the people of Greater Manchester expect their next mayor to have a clear vision for dealing with this housing emergency.

YouGov polling shows that over half of voters in the North West believe that building more social housing is the best way to tackle the national housing crisis, so it’s important that candidates are clear about their commitment to this.

We believe it is essential that, whoever the next mayor of Greater Manchester is, they are clear about their vision for ending the local housing emergency. How they will work with local and national leaders to unlock the social homes our city region and community needs? What do they see as the role of social housing as part of the solution to growing the economy post-coronavirus, and building a sustainable future for the people of Greater Manchester?

The next mayor has a huge job on their hands to build the social homes Manchester needs, as well as keeping those who were helped into hotels during the pandemic off the streets. Please, plan to have your say by voting for the mayoral candidate you believe will put housing at the top of their agenda.

To find out more about what the candidates’ plans are to fix the housing emergency, the main candidates made videos for that you can view below:

Melanie Horrocks on housing

Simon Lepori on housing

Andy Burnham on housing

[1] We don’t have the resources to work with all candidates, and so set a non-selective criteria for all metro mayor elections of engaging the main candidates based upon whether their party elected an MP at the last General Election.