Burnham wages war on bad landlords
Using devolution and compulsory purchase powers, the Greater Manchester Mayor plans to banish “unscrupulous” property owners and end the city region’s housing crisis by 2038.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute for Housing’s annual conference in Manchester, Andy Burnham slammed the state of the city region’s rented housing stock, more than a quarter of which is of poor quality, according to research.
“It is hard to believe that this is happening in the North of England in the 2020s,” Burnham said.
“It suggests that not much has changed since George Orwell chronicled the grim reality of housing in the north 85 years ago in The Road to Wigan Pier.”
Greater enforcement powers
The Mayor outlined the combined authority’s approach – underpinned and funded by the trailblazer devolution deal – to improving housing conditions in Greater Manchester that he said would amount to a ‘complete rewiring of the system’.
From 2024, beefed-up enforcement powers could see the local councils repossess poor-quality properties as part of Burnham’s plans to ensure everyone has a decent home in 15 years’ time.
“A home is the essential foundation that needs to be beneath everybody if they are to have a good life,” he said.
“You cannot level up any parts of the UK when half of its housing stock is falling down.”
Speaking to Place North West, Burnham warned bad landlords that their time is up.
“My message to those landlords is that you cannot carry on as you are. Whether you like it or not, change is coming.
“We won’t accept people renting out properties that are not fit for human habitation. That is not on anymore.”
A catalyst for change
The Mayor cited the death of toddler Awaab Ishak – who died in Rochdale as a result of poor-quality housing – as a catalyst for change but insisted that a strategy to tackle unfit housing in Greater Manchester was already in the works prior to the coroner’s verdict in that case.
“A two-year-old boy was killed by his home and that can only be a moral outrage,” he said.
“It’s an entirely manmade problem, an indictment of national housing policy under successive governments.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Burnham reiterated plans to launch a Good Landlord Charter, first announced earlier this year, that is aimed at improving housing standards in the social and private rented sectors and smoking out bad landlords.
The charter would give tenants “visibility through the accreditation of the many good landlords in our city region who are trying to do the right thing and differentiate them from those who are not,” Burnham said.
The Mayor hopes the charter will make clear what is expected of landlords and ensure that tenants and landlords know what each should be getting from the other.
All landlords will be given the chance to sign up to the charter and Burnham has a plan for those who don’t.
The GM Property Check system will “empower tenants” to report bad quality housing and comprises a “multi-agency approach” to enforcement involving councils, the DWP, and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, Burnham said.
Landlords who are found to not be maintaining their properties will then be given a chance to embark on an “improvement plan” with the GMCA.
Those who do not could risk having their properties repossessed.
In order for this element of the plan to work, Burnham recognises the need for a “streamlined” compulsory purchase process, as well as backing from Whitehall.
“We’ll be seeking the help of Parliament and the courts to make it easier and less costly for councils to take properties out of the hands of those unscrupulous landlords and into the hands of those who will manage them properly,” Burnham said.