While the cost of housing is one of the most pressing national issues, it is felt acutely by renters in Greater Manchester. While luxury flats have sprung up in the city centre, little in the way of affordable housing has been built to address the needs of the growing population and rents have spiralled over recent years.

Manchester topped the Rightmove rent increase table with an increase of 23.4% in the average asking rent in the year up to the second quarter of 2022, with increases seen in all boroughs, leaving many in GM facing the prospect of debt and eviction.

When the COVID pandemic hit, and livelihoods were threatened, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burhnam launched his 'Everybody In' scheme and campaigned for a moratorium on evictions stating:

Unless rapid and decisive action is taken to avert crisis, and increase the capacity to prevent avoidable impacts, we fear that homelessness could return to the streets of Greater Manchester on a scale not seen since the 1930s.”

Later, in the run up to the Mayoral election in May 2021 GMTU held a housing question time event with the candidates running. At this event Andy Burham, seeking re-election, voiced his enthusiastic support for rent controls in the private rented sector and pledged to use his standing to campaign for them on a national level.

Despite the cost of living crisis coming hot on the heels of the pandemic, the government has opted to act in the interests of landlords by lifting the eviction ban and while social rent increases will be capped at between 3 and 7%, they have done nothing to protect private tenants from rent rises. Now as we head into the winter that crisis once again looms.

While the Westmnister government dragged its heels, the devolved Scottish government acted, freezing all rents and banning eviction until March 2023. In the wake of this announcement Greater Manchester Tenants Union wrote a public letter to the Mayor to renew his previous pledges and call for the same for renters in Greater Manchester.

The mayor replied, expressing his concern about the combined effect of rising rents and the cost of living crisis on the lowest earners in the region, highlighting the growing gulf between Local Housing Allowance, capped by central government, and the rents demanded of tenants. Suggesting the lifting of this cap as one way to help the most vulnerable.

In this letter, Burnham invited GMTU to meet with him and Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford Council who currently holds the housing brief for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to discuss our proposals for controlling rents and freezing evictions, which we believe are necessary to keep tenants secure in their homes.

GMTU committee members, staff and members working on cost of living and housing campaigns will meet with Burnham and Western on 21st November to discuss the current situation for renters in GM and make the following demands:

  • Andy Burnham to work with other city/regional mayors and campaign on a national level for:
    • Rent freezes across all tenures, and a section 21 eviction pause until the end of the crisis, with central government making up the shortfall in income for social housing providers.
    • A ban on section 21 evictions, which the government has already promised.
    • Long-term controls on rent increases to stop them being used to evict tenants "by the back-door".
    • A national landlord database in order to hold bad landlords to account.
    • Reduce the cost of rents relative to incomes.
  • Andrew Western and the GMCA to work with local councils to:
    • Apply for city-wide selective landlord licensing for Greater Manchester.
    • Fully utilise existing enforcement measures so that bad landlords face consequences.
    • Hold social landlords in the region to account for their failings.
    • Protection of existing social housing stock to meet rising demand.
  • Future work with GMTU to include:
    • Attendance at renters' forums
    • Follow-up meetings to discuss proposals in-depth.

Watch this space for a report back from the meeting.