A £600,000 partnership programme to improve the way Greater Manchester’s private rented sector works for vulnerable and low-income tenants has been launched by Shelter.
The housing charity is hosting the Fair Housing Futures project, with funding provided by the Nationwide Foundation. The “test and learn” fund will look to support “radical new schemes” to help people overcome barriers to finding and keeping a private rented home.
“Every day our Shelter front-line services hear from people in life-changing trouble, as a total lack of social housing pushes more and more people into unstable private rentals,” said Roli Barker, Shelter’s project manager for Fair Housing Futures.
“Private rented homes can be hard to secure and impossible to afford. The insecurity and threat of eviction can be hugely disruptive for people, especially families with children or vulnerable people.
“This funding from the Nationwide Foundation is an incredible opportunity to create a network of local projects that gets right to the heart of the issues that can hurt vulnerable private renters every day. We want to leave a legacy of practical solutions, that make access to housing not only easier, but fairer.”
Last year, the scheme called for bids from local organisations to improve private renting. Proposals “flooded in”, the charity said, and funding has been allocated to five successful bidders (see below). There are also plans for two new umbrella projects covering local authorities and landlords.
Shelter says the Fair Housing Futures project has already mapped out how “sky-high rents and poor conditions” across Greater Manchester leave many vulnerable renters struggling to survive in what the charity describes as a “broken” private rented system.
This research has helped the project to allocate funding to organisations in Greater Manchester for the next two years, as they work to test and develop successful ideas that could be rolled out further, both locally and nationally.
In addition to the five main projects, Fair Housing Futures is also exploring how they can support landlords with a collaborative approach to the ideas they submitted.
“Fair Housing Futures is a collaborative project, using a local partnership approach to giving funding and support to projects that have ideas to improve life for renters,” said Bridget Young, programme manager at the Nationwide Foundation.
“At the Nationwide Foundation, we have a long-term commitment to making sure everyone has a decent home that they can afford, and we’re thrilled that a part of this work is an attempt to transform the private rented sector in Greater Manchester.
“We look forward to learning from the test and learn fund projects and working with Fair Housing Futures to change things for the better in Greater Manchester and then share that learning further afield.”
Andrew Beeput, chief officer at The Bond Board, added: “The aim of our project is to reduce the reluctance to rent to tenants on benefits that some landlords still have, so that more people can access housing in a system that works better for tenants, letting agents and landlords.
“Housing benefit changes have left many private landlords feeling isolated and confused, often becoming more reluctant to rent to low-income families, who continue to struggle in desperate housing need.
“The role of our new Navigators will help support and train landlords and letting agents to develop their skills and knowledge, so we can increase opportunity for both landlords and tenants.
“And our targeted outreach work will help more tenants on low incomes to find and keep a home and to build better relationships with their landlords. Through the Nationwide Foundation funding we believe we can bring together all the players in the private rented sector, to leave a legacy of a better, fairer system.”
The Fair Housing Futures Partnership has awarded £460,690 to five projects that will run between 2020 and 2022. The remaining £139,310 remains for separate initiatives. The five funded schemes are:
- The Bond Board: PRS Navigator, £75, 612
Working with letting agents in North Greater Manchester, the PRS Navigators will provide outreach work with letting agents to prevent homelessness by dealing with welfare benefit queries and reducing rent arrears. Letting agents will be trained on Universal Credit to reduce resistance to rent to people in receipt of benefits and increase access to housing for low-income households.
- Salford City Council: PRS Tenancy Support Officer, £100,000
A dedicated officer will support private landlords to address and respond to anti-social behaviours.
- Wigan Council: Tenant Champion, £100,000
Championing tenants’ rights is a two-year project focusing on transforming the private rented sector in Leigh. Through a targeted approach and a new dedicated resource of Tenants Champion, the scheme will work to tackle current concerns regarding poor property and management standards, whilst building strong relationships with tenants and landlords alike and helping to create an engaged, supportive community.
- Justlife: Outreach/Landlord Liaison Worker, £107,984.50
Project INFORM TO TRANSFORM aims to improve the experiences of tenants living in the 50 ‘hidden’ PRS UTA (properties identified across Greater Manchester, and their landlords) by distributing informative landlord and tenant packs, providing intensive support and advocacy and increasing their influence via tenants and landlord forums.
- ACORN: Training and support programme, £100,000
Renters Voice Manchester is said to be a ground-breaking piece of work that will build capacity, confidence and infrastructure so that vulnerable renters in Greater Manchester will have an organisation to speak for and with them for years to come. The project will provide a programme of training and support over two years to develop renters’ groups, particularly in Manchester but with capacity to take on issues across Greater Manchester.