While not one single Salford councillor - nor the former City Mayor, Ian Stewart, or current Mayor Paul Dennett - has had a word to say about the scandalous £300million Greater Manchester Housing Fund which has been used to shore up luxury apartment schemes, today it has finally got criticised by a politician.
Andy Burnham, the Leigh MP who is standing as the Labour Party's Greater Manchester Mayor candidate in next year's election, has slated the public money scheme which provides cheap loans for private property developers who provide no affordable housing.
In Salford, Fred Done's FICM Ltd, got a £17.312million loan from the Fund towards its two horrendous blocks of 380 apartments by the Black Friars pub in Trinity. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, the Done brothers, Fred and Peter, are the sixth wealthiest people in the North West, worth £950million, up £50million from the previous year (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
WB Developments (Salford) Ltd also got a cheap £42.5million loan to build 491 apartments on the Wilburn Street Basin site, at the back of the Regent Road retail centre by the River Irwell (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Rowlinson Developments' controversial scheme for 164 apartments on Peel Holdings' Pomona, across the canal from Ordsall, also got a £10.3million loan from the Fund.
Despite public money being used to finance these schemes, none provided any desperately needed affordable housing, and writing in today's Inside Housing, Andy Burnham pledged to sort it out...
"Under the devolution deal, a £300m housing fund has been created for Greater Manchester" he states "At the insistence of the government, this fund is limited to commercially-led housing development. As a result, there are concerns that the fund has been used to provide loans to large companies, which should have used their own finance instead, and that is too focused on city centre and luxury schemes.
"We need a housing fund that is totally focused on tackling Greater Manchester's housing crisis" he explains "While it is clearly building new properties and helping to stimulate regeneration, I cannot see how this approach will this solve our housing problems. Instead, we need a Greater Manchester housing fund that is totally focused on tackling Greater Manchester's housing crisis.
"If devolution is to mean anything, then surely it should be left to us to determine our own housing priorities?" he adds "I think so, and that is why I will renegotiate the aims of this fund so that we can fully focus it on the long-term goal of an affordable home for all."
As one of the Greater Manchester local authorities, Salford City Council underwrites the Fund to the tune of £21.129million (see here); and, for the two Salford schemes the Council has waived £3.2million in planning fees due to `viability' issues (ie profits won't be big enough), in line with a planning scandal that has now involved over £40million of unpaid, avoided and evaded fees (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
Meanwhile, Salford Council has admitted that there is an 8.7 year `queue' on its social housing register for a one bedroom flat, with demand rocketing "in the light of the Bedroom Tax" (see here).
In today's article, Burnham states that "We can do better than this. As mayor, my policy aim would be simple: a decent and affordable home, either to rent or to own, for everyone in Greater Manchester"
Explaining that the housing crisis was made in Westminster, beginning with Margaret Thatcher's sell off of council houses, and ending with current Tory atrocities like the Bedroom Tax, sanctions and cuts to refuges and supported housing, he argues that "My top priority will be to encourage a substantial increase in council and social housing in all ten boroughs...
"The majority of the fund should be used to provide loans and guarantees to our councils and housing associations to expand the public housing stock and build the affordable homes for rent that we desperately need" he adds "A small proportion of the new homes will be designated 'rent-to-own': available on a long-term lease to people under 35 and giving hope of homeownership to 'Generation Rent'."
Other priorities include setting up a Community Buy-Back Fund, providing loans to councils to buy out dodgy private landlords and to "seek powers to regulate rent increases and property standards".
Other, more woolly, unexplained ideas include "ending homelessness in Greater Manchester" – by "uniting public, private and voluntary organisations who want to help"? ...and "a new emphasis on building homes with care and support in mind" and "to support people in their own homes, rather than allowing them to drift into hospital and then care homes".
Of course, it's easy to say all this before you get into power – and then do nothing, a la Salford Labour Council. But at least Andy Burnham is putting dodgy private developments on the agenda, which is a radical shift from the current attitude of Labour Party controlled Greater Manchester councils.
Burnham's views were broadly welcomed by GM Unite Community Branch, which represents many people on low income and benefits...
"We see this as a positive step forward to meeting the housing needs of Greater Manchester residents and the growing number of homeless people" John Clegg of Unite Community told the Salford Star this afternoon.
To read the full article by Andy Burnham in Inside Housing – click here
* Greater Manchester Housing Action has constantly campaigned against the £300million fund and is aiming to step up its action this winter. See previous Salford Star articles - click here and click here