Zero out of 15,000 new homes ‘affordable’ in Blairite Manchester
Invest in council homes – use reserves and ‘Section 106’ cash
Becci Heagney, North West Socialist Party
A damning, yet unsurprising, February housing report reveals that zero affordable housing has been built in Manchester city centre in two years.
Anyone who has recently walked around the city will see on the one hand luxury flats being built everywhere – 14,667 plans approved in that time – and on the other, outrageous numbers of people sleeping rough. It doesn’t take a genius to work out something is wrong here.
The report commissioned for Greater Manchester Housing Action shows developers are not building the required 20% of affordable housing in new projects. But also, the ‘Section 106’ money that developers should pay to the council in lieu of this is not being collected.
Construction companies working on big developments are supposed to pay money to councils to help fund affordable housing elsewhere – or new schools, services, infrastructure and so on that might be required because of the increase in residents.
However, if the reported profit margins of developers are too small, they don’t have to pay. And the best part is they can keep their figures secret and just say they can’t afford it!
In Greater Manchester this is part of devolution. The ‘deal’ between former Tory chancellor George Osborne and the council leaders of the ten boroughs involved – nine of which are Labour – means the £300 million additional devolution housing money cannot be used to build social housing.
Over one-third of the money has been loaned to a private company to build just one skyscraper in Manchester city centre!
Theresa May recently lambasted the lack of affordable housing available and put the blame on councils and developers. But the Tory government is responsible too. They have given the green light to companies like Carillion to take on contracts without being able to deliver while paying executives big bonuses.
However, her answer – that councils should work still more closely with private developers to build more quickly – is ludicrous.
She also said at least 10% of developments need to be allocated to affordable housing. Without even considering that their definition of ‘affordable’ is still out of reach for most working class people, the examples of Manchester and nearby Salford show companies can just ignore that!
Local government is not only allowing developers to throw up overpriced housing, pushing out the working class – but passing up millions from them at a time of massive cutbacks to services and rising homelessness.
Councils must demand all the money they’re owed – and stop facilitating developers’ gentrification projects. Instead they should use the money, with their reserves and borrowing powers, to invest in services and building genuinely affordable council housing.
But it also shows the chaos of the capitalist system and its inability to provide for people’s most basic needs. We need the nationalisation of the construction companies and a mass council house building programme to provide for the many not the few.