Over the last six months, renters across Greater Manchester shared ideas about how to fix the problems they collectively faced and put them into a manifesto.
We invited four of the candidates for Greater Manchester mayor to a Housing Question Time event and sent them the manifesto to read over in advance of the event. The candidates were:
- Andy Burnham (LABOUR)
- Laura Evans (CONSERVATIVE)
- Melanie Horrocks (GREEN)
- Simon Lepori (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT)
(Please note, the Conservative candidate did not respond to any of our invitations and so did not attend the event)
We've summarised their responses below, but you can rewatch the event back on our Facebook page here.
What did they say on...
|Burnham (LAB)||Horrocks (GRE)||Lepori (LD)|
|Rent Controls in the private sector|
|Stronger regulation against number of AirBnB properties|
|Right To Housing enshrined in law|
|Support for housing campaigners fighting demolitions of social housing in Rochdale|
|Covid arrears||Up front government funding for landlords paid back over a number of years||Cancel rent arrears, furlough scheme for landlords||Lobby government for grants/loans to those in arrears|
The broad range of questions we asked meant that it was easy to get a sense of where each of the candidates priorities lie when it comes to housing.
One of the most important questions we posed was whether they backed rent controls. This was a demand that had consistently been brought up in discussions private renters held on the problems they were facing. Although we understand the Mayor would not be able to bring in rent controls directly, we asked the candidates if they supported them in principle and whether they would lobby the government to devolve these powers to the Mayor. Both Burnham and Horrocks enthusiastically agreed, with Horrocks going as far as to lay out Green Party policy of a cap on rents at 35% of local income (our manifesto put that figure at 30%). Lepori was less committed, and said that while he was fully in favour of rent controls in the social sector, they would not work in the private sector as landlords would become financially unstable and be forced to sell their homes.
We welcome the initial support from Andy Burnham on the ongoing situation in Rochdale, as put to the candidates by one of our members, Mark. We think it is imperative that whoever is elected uses their position and voice to amplify the work of campaigners here to save social housing and ensure that residents are not forced away from communities they have built their lives in.
Another important question came from Kate at Greater Manchester Law Centre, on how candidates would approach rent arrears built up as a result of Covid. Both Burnham and Horrocks clarified that the onus for relief or government help would be put onto the landlords, which is good news for renters who have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely as a result of the pandemic. Lepori suggested grants or loans to be paid back by renters would be the best solution, which does nothing to fix the slippery slope of debt many have found themselves in through no fault of their own.
As we come out of the Covid crisis, evictions, rent arrears and homelessness are going to be at the forefront of struggle. But we don't want things to go back to normal; it wasn't good enough. We would encourage everyone to think carefully about what renters need, and how each of the candidates promise to fulfill that, and pressure whoever is elected into keeping those promises.