New strategy backs PRS growth in Manchester

Manchester City Council has published a strategy to ensure quality in the private rented sector across its metropolitan area. The Manchester Market Rental Strategy aims to promote good practice, and enhance the role of professional bodies in a bid to drive up standards across the sector, as the numbers of private rented properties grows.

The strategy is a positive step in acknowledging that the private rented sector will be of growing importance to the region in providing homes for more residents in coming years.

Importantly, the council’s document makes a positive suggestion around renaming the sector, and aiming to improve communications. It recommends rebadging the sector “market rental” rather than “private rented”, and says better availability of information via the internet will help improve standards.

“The Manchester rental market has boomed in the last few years – particularly in the city centre – and now offers some of the best accommodation in the city,” said councillor Jeff Smith, executive member for housing and regeneration. “For the vast majority of renters this option works well, and we will continue to support and encourage this market to create wider choice and competition which will drive up standards even higher.”

The strategy notes that a small number of properties at the lower end of the market are those that generate most problems and complaints. The strategy suggests the council will intervene to improve the worst properties and neighbourhoods, with a campaign of proactive enforcement against landlords and agents who fail to respond positively.

“We have a message for those unscrupulous and even criminal landlords that deliberately flout the rules and target vulnerable people who have little or no choice,” warned Smith. “We will use all our available combined powers to target your activities, as you are not welcome in Manchester.”

The strategy, developed with support from the Northern Housing Consortium, follows an assessment of the city’s housing needs, which was set out in a council document published last year, the Residential Growth Prospectus. That suggested the city will need 55,000 new homes by 2027. It signalled the development of a quality private rented sector as one of six key principles to help ease supply, stating: “Good-quality, well-managed accommodation to rent makes an important contribution to the city’s housing stock, accounting for over half of all economically active households in the city centre and fringe.”

The council also notes the same problem in Manchester as elsewhere in the UK, with few institutional and professional landlords, and many amateurs. Says the report: “An important characteristic of the national rental market is the very high number of small landlords owning only one or two properties with relatively few large portfolio holding investors. In Manchester, although we do not know the precise numbers, we are confident the position is similar albeit with an increasing number of larger portfolio holders coming to the market in recent months. With such a pattern of diverse ownership there is an obvious challenge in effectively raising awareness of standards, rights and responsibilities across the whole sector.”

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