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Manchester council chief: Housing policy is failing

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The driving force behind the capital of the Northern Powerhouse has criticised the government’s housing policy for being too London-centric.

In a rare sit-down interview, Manchester City Council chief executive Howard Bernstein told the AJ’s sister title Construction News housing markets outside of London were ‘failing’ and without intervention would not be able to function effectively.

Asked whether the current government had got its housing strategy right, Bernstein said: ‘No… but then, I’m not sure any government over the last decade has got its housing policy right.

‘Too much housing policy, at a national level, has been determined by the particular problems of the housing market in London and the South-east and not enough by the needs of the cities outside London, where housing markets are failing - and in the absence of intervention those housing markets will not become fully functioning.’

Bernstein issued the warning ahead of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review today (25 November), in which the chancellor announced he was doubling the housing budget to £2billion a year and pledged to build 400,000 affordable homes by 2020.

‘I’m not sure any government over the last decade has got its housing policy right’

Howard Bernstein, Manchester City Council

He said there was too much focus on homeownership, which he pointed out was just one part of the housing market.

He added that the social rented sector was ‘a critical pathway’ for many people looking to own a home. “I think there is an absolute requirement to rethink the regulatory regime about how social housing is provided,” he said.

His comments came one month after the Office for National Statistics reclassified housing associations as public sector bodies.

‘There is a debate that needs to be had [around social housing] and I don’t think the ONS’s decision to reclassify housing associations has helped those conversations, certainly in the short term.’

This could include moves to help housing associations consolidate and develop stronger assets, as well as merge assets with other housing associations, he said.

Read the full interview

More from Bernstein on retaining Manchester’s heritage, better design and balancing foreign investment.


The UK should be looking at how people from the social rented sector can be encouraged to access homeownership, he added.

‘That for me is a big priority, so we can start to understand what the role of the social rented sector is within a place like Manchester.

‘[The social rented sector] is there to support people to achieve their potential, for people who can’t afford a house in the private sector, and so other public services can be harnessed around actual people.’

Sir Howard Bernstein chief executive Manchester City Council

 

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