Four charities in Greater Manchester have declared a “private rent emergency” in the city region and demanded major change to help thousands of local people at risk of losing their homes.
Stepping Stone Projects, Mustard Tree, The Booth Centre, and Shelter Greater Manchester –charities dedicated to tackling poverty and ending homelessness in the region – have today launched a campaign to coincide with World Homeless Day.
Greater Manchester Private Rent Emergency campaign is calling on councils, politicians and a range of other stakeholders to publicly recognise the crisis in the private rental sector, and back the charities’ joint plans for reform.
The campaign aims to address the escalating homelessness crisis in the region, which the group argue is exacerbated by a “perfect storm” of soaring rents, Local Housing Allowance frozen at 2020 levels, the benefit cap, increasing evictions, and the cost-of-living crisis.
Dave Smith, chief executive of Stepping Stone Projects, which supports around 2,000 people at risk of homelessness in Greater Manchester, said: “We have seen a rapid growth in homelessness and surging demand for temporary accommodation from local people who have effectively been shut out of the private rented sector.
“Soaring rents and inadequate rights have led to this emergency, which must be recognised and tackled if we are serious about reducing homelessness in Greater Manchester.”
New analysis of official figures released by the group shows that the main reason for households facing homelessness in Greater Manchester is people losing their tenancies in private rented homes.
Almost half (44%) of cases where households are at risk of homelessness in Greater Manchester are from people living in the private rented sector, compared to 25% living with family and 9% living in the social rented sector.
There are well in excess of 60,000 households in the private rented sector across Greater Manchester. According to the campaigners, under current laws they have limited protection from being evicted from their homes at short notice, even if they have done nothing wrong.
Rough sleeping may have fallen significantly from its historic high thanks in part to the efforts of the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, but the charities point out that homelessness levels overall remain “stubbornly high”, with a rising number of households relying on temporary accommodation.
Rents in some parts of Greater Manchester are rising by as much as 38% annually, they claim, yet the Local Housing Allowance, which sets the benefit rates people can access for private rents remains frozen at 2018/19 rent levels.
John Ryan, Shelter’s Greater Manchester strategic lead, said: “We’ve seen positive steps to address rough sleeping and homelessness in Greater Manchester, but the problems that we see will continue to grow without reform of the private rented sector.
“Thousands of people are effectively locked out of the private rented sector by soaring rents and the social rented sector by lack of availability due to decades of under investment in building truly affordable homes.”
The charities are calling for “crucial” measures to improve the private rented sector and curb the rising levels of homelessness. The campaign’s core focus revolves around what it calls the “4 Rs”. These are:
- Regulation: The swift introduction and implementation of the Renters’ Reform Bill, banning ‘no-fault’ evictions and enhancing tenant rights
- Rent Control: Greater Manchester should have the power to control private rents in order to protect tenants from unaffordable increases
- Rates of Local Housing Allowance (LHA): Increase LHA rates and reinstate indexation to ensure that the private rental sector can be accessed by households in receipt of benefits
- Rights: End age discrimination in the LHA system and discrimination based on immigration status
Paul Newcombe, chief executive of the Booth Centre, said: “We are increasingly seeing the failure of the private rented sector lead directly to homelessness, with people on the lowest incomes simply unable to find a suitable home.
“As well as soaring rents, there are some preventable issues with the system that create an impossible situation for some of the most vulnerable people in our city region.”
Jo Walby, chief executive of Mustard Tree, added: “Only by recognising that we are facing a private rent emergency can we start to make some of the local, regional and national changes needed to prevent even more people from experiencing homelessness.
“Our organisations are all dedicated to providing support to people in the greatest need, and we will continue in this mission. But it is also incumbent on us to advocate for a fairer, more effective system, where everyone has the right to secure housing.”
Roman Bodnarchuk – Shutterstock
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.