Greater Manchester Combined Authority is committed to drive up standards in the private rented sector and make a positive difference to the lives of tenants and landlords.
- This is a city region initiative that covers ten councils.
- Greater Manchester Combined Authority has, as part of its housing vision, a focus on driving up private rented sector standards.
- Activities focus on a strategic perspective and specific sub-regional projects
- Working with the Nationwide Foundation and Shelter, it has set up a five-year ‘fair housing futures’ programme.
- Fair housing futures has three work streams – building up an evidence base, testing and supporting innovative projects and encouraging tenant voice.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority is committed to drive up standards in the private rented sector and make a positive difference to the lives of tenants and landlords. These commitments are embedded in the housing vision and the housing strategy.
The private rented sector has grown considerably over the last two decades. It now caters for meeting a diverse range of the needs and demands including:
- temporary accommodation to meet urgent housing needs
- alternatives for those unable to access social housing or get a foothold on the bottom rungs of the owner occupation ladder
- student living
- mid-market family housing
- city centre apartments.
Although each of these market segments raise challenging issues, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and its partners are principally focussed on tackling the issues of poor conditions and inadequate property management affecting the most vulnerable tenants and poorer neighbourhoods.
A number of initiatives are being taken forward such as a rogue landlord hub. Funding has been obtained from the MHCLG. The hub’s activities include sharing information on landlords and lettings agents between the ten local authorities in the city region and identifying best practice on tackling rogue landlords.
However, the major initiative is the ‘fair housing futures’ project.
Fair housing futures
This is a five-year project for improving the lives of vulnerable private rented sector tenants. There are three major partners – Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Nationwide Foundation and Shelter. In total, £1.2 million is being invested. In the case of the Nationwide Foundation, this initiative is part of its ‘transforming the rented sector funding programme’.
A ‘fair housing partnership board’ has been established to oversee and manage the project.
There are three work streams, and these are:
- mapping exercise to provide an evidence base on reviewing how low-income renters access and experience the private rented sector – this is referred to as ‘map the patch’
- testing innovative ideas to address the issues facing vulnerable tenants through ‘test and learn grants’
- engaging with tenants and landlords through, for example, a ‘tenants’ voices programme’.
Each of these is now discussed in turn.
Map the patch
The work programme has, so far, included:
- desk-top review undertaken by independent consultants of data (and stakeholder interviews) to scope the nature of the private rented sector
- interviews with landlords, lettings agents, tenants and housing officers to better understand the functioning of sector and its sub-sectors
- review of evidence on ‘good landlord schemes’.
The ‘fair housing partnership board’ regard these as essential in building up a clear understanding of the issues faced by vulnerable and low-income tenants. It also provides evidence to support decisions on ‘test and learn grants’.
Test and learn grants
The aim of these grants is to test trailblazing solutions that address four issues associated with consumer regulation. These are improving communications between tenants and landlords and lettings agents; empowering tenants by raising awareness; supporting landlords by improving awareness of regulations and; tackling the stigma of vulnerable tenants (especially those in receipt of welfare benefits).
The projects supported by these grants can be delivered by local authorities and third sector organisations.
Projects that have been funded for two years from 2020 to 2022 include:
- private rented sector (PRS) navigators: This centres on working with lettings agents in the northern part of Greater Manchester to prevent homelessness through section 21 notices by resolving welfare benefit issues and tackling rent arrears
- tenancy support officer: This post, based at Salford city council, will support landlords in dealing with anti-social behaviour
- outreach and landlord liaison worker: This initiative focuses on improving the experience of tenants living in unsupported temporary accommodation and will target 50 properties in the city region - it will be delivered by a third sector organisation, Justlife
- championing tenants’ rights: This project is based in Leigh in Wigan borough council and centres on building better relationships between landlords and tenants to tackle poor property conditions and inadequate management.
Amplify tenants’ voices
This work stream centres on tenants and landlords, as well as lettings agents, working together to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable households.
A number of projects funded through the ‘test and learn grants’ are centred on this theme eg championing tenants’ rights (see above). A further example is the training and support programme for ‘renters voice Manchester’. This aims to build capacity, confidence and infrastructure so that vulnerable tenants have an organisation to represent them. It will be delivered by ACORN, which is a national independent community organisation.