Manchester’s new housing deal: more questions than answers.

Manchester City has signed a new housing deal with Manchester City! Yes, that’s what we said, where “Manchester City” of course means Manchester City Council and strangely enough (in Manc. English) “Manchester City” also means Manchester City Football Club.

Even stranger, that football club is owned by an investment company the

On the right, Sheikh Monsoor, whose company Manchester City Council has signed the deal with. (via wikipedia)

On the right, Sheikh Mansoor, with whose company Manchester City Council has signed the deal (via wikipedia)

Abu Dhabi United Group, the personal fiefdom of one Mansoor bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minster of the United Arab Emirates, the federation of small absolute monarchies on the Arabian Peninsular, with innovative social policies such as the use of torture, capital punishment, high levels of labour exploitation, and 14-year prison terms for homosexuality. It is also the country with the world’s highest per capita ecological footprint, although reported to be concerned to reduce it.  It is actually with this company that the deal has been signed.

According to the council’s news story:
The partnership will see, as Phase One of the programme, the provision of more than 830 homes in Ancoats and New Islington, bringing significant impetus to both areas and helping to complete their redevelopment. The agreement forms the first phase and foundation of the Manchester Life initiative and builds on the regeneration activity that has been led by Manchester City Council in collaboration with a range of partners over the last 15 years.

The predominantly privately rented homes will strengthen Manchester’s economic growth trajectory by providing much needed residential units, helping the city achieve its Residential Growth Strategy to build tens of thousands of new homes by 2027.

and quoting Richard Leese, it goes on to say:

“Today’s announcement adds another commercial dimension to the already significant investment made by Manchester City Council and ADUG in East Manchester, and in doing so progresses the regeneration story which began in the 1990’s and was accelerated by the 2002 Commonwealth Games and ADUG’s recent development of the Etihad Campus.

“The planned transformation of the eastern edge of the City Centre is the single biggest residential investment Manchester has seen for a generation. Building thousands of quality new homes will be a fundamental part of our growth story and will deliver significant socioeconomic impact. We look forward to working with Abu Dhabi United Group to create a world class exemplar of regeneration.”

Everything else that is available to us public can be found in the report to the Council’s Executive Group this week. Among other things, this gives the background to Manchester’s “Residential Growth Strategy”. There is a further “commercially sensitive” report that we are not allowed to see.

Now, we don’t want to pour cold water on a scheme to provide modern housing in the

It's desolate there

It’s desolate there

desolate areas to the North East of Great Ancoats Street. The Keynesian part of our thinking would also acknowledge the effectiveness of housing construction in facilitating local economic activity, through the multiplier effect of jobs and incomes being created locally. Although the ecological economic part of our thinking would also want to consider how that prosperity could be kept local, instead of leaching out to other economies and to damaging, emission-intense consumption. Moreover, increasing population density in the city could be a good thing, ecologically – although the motives for doing this are as usual tied to the dreary and unimaginative economic growth mantra rather than to any considerations of re-localisation of economic and social activity. But there are some questions that need answers if the Manchester public (and electorate) is to be able to form an informed view about the benefits of the deal.

1) Where is the social housing in the scheme? The documents emphasise the private rented sector. Does a Labour council really want to be encouraging more of this? And are there any plans to follow the example of some of the London boroughs to introduce a mandatory register of private landlords?

2) The documents also talk about stimulating the housing market. Alarm bells ring here for two reasons: firstly, what scoping studies have been done to model the supply and demand for such housing, and what are their assumptions? or are we going to end up with yet more empty properties, as with the boom in office space? Secondly, if the strategy was successful in encouraging a stimulation of the housing market, what would be the consequences for house prices in the city? We know that it is house price inflation that is driving the bubblecovery in GDP in the UK (that and the return to rising personal and household indebtedness). So is the council actually playing with fire here. Wouldn’t affordable rented accommodation in the (now) quasi-public sector (housing associations, housing trusts, arms length management organisations, housing co-operatives) be a better priority?

3) The details of the deal remain completely opaque – to those of us outside the ‘golden circle’ anyway. How much money is the Abu Dhabi company putting in, and what do they expect to get out of it? So can the council assure us that this is what University of Manchester researchers at CRESC call the “social franchise”? That means capturing a share of corporate profits, that owe their existence to the ‘license’ the firms have to operate in the council’s area, something Manchester should be doing with the many companies (especially utilities, supermarkets, and financial institutions) that operate on its territory. Or, is this just another instance of corporate rent-seeking, with the council’s approach being little more than hoping for trickle-down of benefits to the multiply deprived districts of the city? We remain agnostic about this: it could well be a case of the former (social franchise) – but if so the council needs to explicitly state this and explain how the city will benefit. Otherwise we can be forgiven for assuming the latter (rent-seeking).

4) The reports talk about two deals. One is with the Abu Dhabi group. The other is with the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA). This one looks like a pragmatic approach to overcoming the barriers to using the assets from land sales for further housing investment, and to pull in further investment for house building. Again, it would be helpful to know more, and specifically what will the criteria be for:

a) Selecting investors? Can anyone play, or will there be a preferential option, for example, for socially responsible companies, some of which are players in the construction industry?

b) Approving construction proposals? What will be the energy and ecological characteristics of these new housing units?

c) Designing the physical, and most importantly the social dimensions of the new developments? Previous regeneration has emphasised physical regeneration, building, that is, and had little real understanding of how communities work, how they develop, and how real community can be facilitated.

In short, how will this Manchester Place deal secure the maximum social, ecological and economic well-being?
Finally, how will the public interest in these questions be represented?

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8 Responses to Manchester’s new housing deal: more questions than answers.

  1. We had similar nonsense back in the 2000s, when parts of Ancoats was social cleansed, to make way for New Ancoats. This was funded by the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Communities_Programme, with EU and Government grants. It was never completed, but a small group of people became very rich of the back of this failed development. And one of these people is the person the council has put back in charge of overseeing the ‘new’ developemnt of New Islington. They are still plenty of properties empty from the past development, and yet they want to build more ‘afforable rent homes’, when we have a severe shortage of council/social housing. As for the schemes attracting people to Manchester, migration is 3,660 out of Manchester, not inward migration: http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/HTMLDocs/dvc25/index.html#sty=true&flow=flow0&period=2&fix=E08000003&view=200,-40,650,635&tr=0,0&sc=1
    There is a group from the Ancoats community, Ancoats Dispensary Trust, who have been fighting to save Ancoats Dispensary from demolition. The Grade II listed building, was part of the promised development in Ancoats, with Tom Bloxham, stating that he would never work in Manchester again, if he did not restore the Dispensary: http://youtu.be/Tc5BeUcl3Hs. The Cardroom Estate was not a slum estate, it had not been maintained by Manchester City Council, but they were not slum dwellings. Like the estate, Ancoats Dispensary was vandalised and allowed to fall into decay, with the connivence of Manchester City Council. They had a ‘Duty of Care’ towards this Grade II listed building, but instead allowed the roof and tower to be removed, to hasten its demise. Then we have the three tower blocks, also in Urban Splash’s care for twenty years. Now Urban Splash has sold them to http://www.rowlinsonconstruction.co.uk/news/news-residential/east-manchester-regeneration.
    As somone who had relatives who were socially cleanse from Hulme, Manchester in the 1960s, and now lives in Hulme. I have witnessed the contiued break-up of local communities. The developments in Hulme in the 1990’s, led by Richard Leese, were aimed at the educated middle-class, with a select few being actually involved in the development. Salford University did a follow-up report, on the development 10 years later. Unfortunately the 57 page is no longer available to the public: http://r.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0LEViGHD7BTn1UAGlTL3IlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTBybnV2cXQwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw–/RV=2/RE=1404076040/RO=10/RU=http%3a%2f%2fwww.vivacity2020.co.uk%2fMembers%2fWP3%2520Hulme%2520Report%2520-%2520Case%2520Study.doc/RK=0/RS=W80EjxOeh8vlK01KvzFsZ8zCTYg-. There was a follow up report, which gave a better picture of the Hulme re-development: http://r.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0LEViGHD7BTn1UAGlTL3IlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTBybnV2cXQwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw–/RV=2/RE=1404076040/RO=10/RU=http%3a%2f%2fwww.vivacity2020.co.uk%2fMembers%2fWP3%2520Hulme%2520Report%2520-%2520Case%2520Study.doc/RK=0/RS=W80EjxOeh8vlK01KvzFsZ8zCTYg-.
    In Hulme now, we no longer have the Hulme Alliance or either of the two Hulme Residents Online Groups, all forced to close by Hulme Labour. Crime and City Centre workers parking is still an issue. Small shops are still struggling to stay open, with the market being reduced to nothing more than some containers. And in 2008, the Council and John Brooks of Manchester Metropolitan University did a deal, behind Hulme resident’s backs, to build a campus on Birley Fields. Hulme already had a student population of 22%, which is classed a ‘studification’ of an area. So much for Hulme being a family orientated, stable community, it is more transient, than when the Crescent existed.

  2. Reblogged this on patricktsudlow and commented:
    Once again, Manchester City Council, is continuing with its failed policies, of socially cleansing areas of long term tenants, to build energy inefficient homes for the young, upperwardly mobile professionals. They have learnt nothing from their failures of the past, blaming their failures on everything but themselves. Without accepting there is a problem, taking ownwership of that problem, the problem will never be resolved. Manchester, is locked in an ever decreasing spiral towards total breakdown, like Detroit in the USA, where residents are having their water cut-off: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit

  3. Bill Raymond says:

    A little more information here from Guardian housing network. Rather a positive spin on it all.
    http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2014/jun/26/manchester-housing-deal-6000-homes?CMP=twt_gu

  4. I detect an air or undercurrent of partisanship driving this article and interestingly nobody was brave enough to put their name to it. Please be mature about this process – ask yourself who really drove this article & what are his or her motives?

    Why are people assuming these homes will be energy inefficient? If anything, knowing how ADUG do things, the houses are likely to be the most efficient, energy wise, in the city.

    People looking back at the halcyon days of Ancoats, Hulme, Collyhurst, Ardwick etc are clearly disingenuous fantasists. These areas surrounding the city centre were virtually “no go” for “outsiders” from the late 70s onwards and, whilst there’s pockets of humanity in all such places, in the long run the vision to transform these eyesores will be evident. It might take another 10-20 years to see the full benefits but the alternative was to stay marooned with third rate housing which were an embarrassment when entering or leaving what is becoming a more vibrant city overall. As a resident who has lived in and around the above all my life & worse in the north of Manchester it is positive to see things can change from the despairing decay so much of Manchester has witnessed (in the north & east) over the last 40 years.

    People should not use the phrase “ethnic cleansing” out of context in this way when it pales into insignificance when you look at the gravity of what it really means in other countries.
    Nobody should doubt that these areas were great once when we were a lot more provincial & undernourished but not as we approach the 3rd decade of the 21st century.

    • Hello and thanks for taking the time to respond.
      Firstly, the article was written by Mark Burton, one of the SSM collective.
      However, your comments seem to combine criticism of the original article with criticism of the long comments by Patrick Sudlow.
      In the article we were very careful to pose questions and avoid unwarranted assertions. So we did not say that the homes would be energy inefficient but instead asked what ecological criteria would govern their construction. We did not talk about ‘social cleansing’ (the term used by Patrick – he did not say ‘ethnic cleansing’) but instead asked what provision there would be for social housing in the mix of tenure models. We did however raise questions about the emphasis on the private rented sector and make no apology for that. Nor do we want to under-estimate the serious social problems of the area, historical and indeed today. These are, no doubt, the result of successive upheavals for these communities from the days of the enclosures and flight from the land, through the evolution of industrial Manchester, its de-industrialisation and the waves of poorly conducted (though well meaning) regeneration, up the present. But no, having worked in the area in health and social care I have no romantic illusions while nevertheless celebrating the resilience of the population and the deep reservoir of social solidarity.
      The motives in writing the article were to encourage a more critical understanding of the city’s social and economic policies. By ‘critical’ we mean analytic, thoughtful, evidence-based and transparent rather than merely antagonistic. We wanted to get beyond the ‘celebrationism’ that characterises the statements about the deal and to ask for more information than that already presented: it is the obscurity of the details and the lack of an explicit ‘theory’ of how the investment will result in social, economic and ecological well-being of the city and its people that concerns us. It may be that there is a really robust case to be made that the deal with ADUG will though the social franchise, local multipliers, community-building and energy conservation, really make such a difference, but celebrationist statements and secret reports do not offer that.
      Mark Burton

  5. It is strange that rantallion101, complains nobody has been brave enough to put their name to these articles, whilst not providing their own name or even a link to a working blog? I based my assertions on energy efficient homes being built, on the council only asking developers to build to the low UK standards and past experience of new build in Manchester.
    The council keeps stating that Manchester is attracting people to live in Manchester. Despite the evidence showing outward migratrion from Manchester: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/downloads/download/4220/public_intelligence_population_publications.
    There has been another report, which is critical of the UK’s reliance on the service industries, the very same industries Manchester City Council is relying on: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jim-cuthbert/risk-in-british-economy. Richard Leese, in the 1990s, had the idea of turning Manchester into another Barcelona. Barcelona and Spain as a whole, were heavily dependent on the tourist and service industries. The very same industries Manchester City Council are keen to nuture. Instead of learning from past mistakes, the council keeps pushing forward with the same policies. Manchester, will become the Detroit of the UK, where even the water is being cut-off to homes: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/detroit-cuts-off-water-to-thousands-of-residents-as-activists-plead-with-un-for-help-with-human-rights-abuse-9556171.html.

  6. Pingback: I’ve been otherwise engaged. | Uncommontater

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