As part of his plan to create homes for all, Manchester mayoral candidate Andy Burnham has called for councils to receive a fund to help them purchase private rental homes in a poor state of repair.
The Labour MP also pledged to introduce a licensing scheme for private landlords across Greater Manchester, and gain powers to regulate rent rises and property standards, if he is elected as mayor.
In a blog for Inside Housing magazine, Burnham proposed measures to tackle the housing crisis and drive out the “scourge of absent, private landlords that bedevils much of Greater Manchester”.
Manchester Mayoral Candidate Calls for Homes for All
Burnham suggests that councils should be provided with loan finance to buy out private landlords if they believe they are not keeping their properties up to the decent homes standard.
His plans for a community buy-back fund would “have a number of benefits”, he says.
He explains: “First, it will quickly expand public housing stock. Second, it will bring rents down to an affordable level. Third, it will enhance the ability of councils to turn around struggling neighbourhoods. Fourth, it will bring down the housing benefit bill.”
However, the Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Research at the National Landlords Association (NLA), Chris Norris, has hit back at the suggestions of rent controls and licensing scheme.
“What is disappointing is the almost immediate reversion to policies of intervention and control, which are both outmoded and proven to fail,” he says. “The people of Greater Manchester deserve better than promises to seek powers to cap rents and drive investment from the area by licensing the good and well-meaning whilst the criminally negligent continue to ignore the law.”
But Norris adds that Burnham was “right to recognise the paramount importance of having a home” and to create homes of different tenure.
He seemed to applaud the policy to buy out rogue landlords, but is cautious: “We might question whether the local community will thank Mr. Burnham for effectively rewarding the poor and sometimes criminal performance of bad landlords with a golden handshake.”
Norris suggests that Burnham may be better to work with good landlords in Manchester and ensure they are “treated like the valuable part of the community they are, so they could help lead the local buy-back he so desires”.
Burnham also wants to increase council and social housing across Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs by extending the £300m housing fund to pay for these homes. Currently, the fund is limited to commercially-led housing development.
He believes that the majority of the fund should help provide loans and guarantees to councils and housing associations to build more affordable homes to rent.
“A small proportion of the new homes will be designated rent-to-own; available on a long-term lease to people under 35, and giving hope of homeownership to generation rent,” he states.
The Manchester mayoral election will be held in May 2017. Burnham’s opponents are yet to be announced.