Memorandum by Abbey Hey Residents' Association
EMPTY HOMES INQUIRY
There appears to be relatively few empty homes
in Gorton, this can be deceptive, as many empty homes remain "apparently"
occupied, but like the rest of East Manchester , the housing market
is very fragile. We are concerned that, in trying to regenerate
East Manchester, there is insufficient understanding of existing
problems in the housing market, and some of the housing policies
being pursued actually make the problems for older housing neighbourhoods
much worse. For example, just two or three boarded-up houses in
a street can plunge the whole street into negative equity, and
the fear of it happening causes considerable worry to a lot of
people in otherwise very adequate terraced housing.
1. The Housing Market
Historically, most of Gorton was an area of
rented property, either private landlords or Council housing.
There were relatively few owner occupied houses. Even many of
the semi-detached houses, built in the 1930s were for rent. Large
numbers of these houses were sold to sitting tenants in the 1960s,
70s and early 80s, and much of the best Council property was bought
by tenants from the 1980s onwards under the "right to buy"
However, these sales failed to stimulate adequate
business for estate agents. Whereas in neighbouring Denton and
Reddish, with a similar mix of housing, there is a large number
of estate agencies, Gorton is dominated by one. That agent has
a difficult job balancing the needs of vendors and buyers with
little competition from other estate agents, especially as they
are the premier managing agency for let property in the area.
The slump in the housing marketing in the early
1990s, and continued weakness in the market, means that a substantial
number of home owners are caught in the trap of negative equity.
For long-standing and settled residents, this is not a major problem.
However, for young couples, who bought small terraced houses,
there are real problems if they need to move because of work,
or want larger homes due to an expanding family. In many cases,
they just cannot afford to sell at a loss and move.
The solution, therefore, that many turn to,
is to let the property. If you let some of these properties to
tenants on benefits, you can just about raise enough weekly income
to go on paying the mortgage, and have a small surplus to pay
towards buying another property, elsewhere.
2. Rented Housing in Gorton
Council rents for family houses are around £45
per week. Housing Association properties tend to be £10 to
£20 higher, while properties can be let to those on benefit
for £70 to £90 a week. Manchester City Council and most
of the Housing Associations have been refusing to let to difficult
tenants, and weeding out existing tenants who don't reach minimum
standards. The result is, almost all the tenants who could be
described as problem tenants are tending to end up in the private
rented sector, in areas such as East Manchester. An anti-social
tenant in some of the small terraced housing can cause havoc in
3. New Build
New build has both positive and negative impacts
on the area. Firstly, it makes the area look prosperous, and it
can bring in young families with a commitment to stay in an area.
A good example in Gorton being the new homes built along the main
A57 Hyde Road, near to Debdale Park.
However, at the same time, if demand for, and
interest in, an area is low, then small scale new build (both
for sale and to let) can soak up sales and further undermine the
market for existing housing in the same area. Much of the crime
This is a constant problem with people always
looking over their shoulder and aware of the break-ins and muggings.
The current figures show a drop in house burglary
and car theft but it is difficult to convince people that the
statistics are correct.
Having described the problems of the area, we
are very conscious that we need to offer solutions.
The key problem is the weakness of the housing
market and the fear that if you buy properties in the area you
will get into negative equity. Gorton is the same distance from
the centre of Manchester and the Universities, as parts of south
Manchester, which has a strong and buoyant housing market. If
the area was perceived to be a safe area to buy into, we are certain
that demand for Gorton would be strong.
Achieving this requires there to be a floor
in the market. If you know that having bought a terraced house
for £16,000, you could sell it for at least that sum in four
or five years, this would provide the confidence residents and
potential buyers need.
This could be done in two ways: the East Manchester
regeneration company "New East Manchester" could agree
to buy back the property they had valued on purchase, or Manchester
City Council could do it. We don't believe this would cost very
much at all: a little to do valuations, but actual "buy back"
would be rare, as long as the floor in the market existed. Basically,
Gorton has a lot of attraction for people to live hereall
that is required is something to restore confidence in the area.
The close proximity of Gorton to the City Centre
is a benefit to people working in central Manchester and in the
University/Hospitals precinct. It doesn't, however, have the facilities
that people are looking for in terms of location and types of
housing. Terraced housing is perceived to be of low status and
families, in particular, are looking for private sector detached
properties with gardens.
The only solution, therefore, is to reduce the
amount of terraced property and replace it with tailored housing.
In the Abbey Hey area, there is considerable
demand for inter-war and post-war semi-detached property, and
there is further evidence of stability in that there are considerable
numbers of applications for extensions and conservatories, etc.,
in the plans list.
The principal problem, which is a danger of
escalating into a crisis, is the placing on anti-social families
in hard-to-let terraced properties. If this is allowed to proceed
unchecked, then any stability achieved in privately owned housing
will be destroyed. The current position is fragile and vulnerable
to any downturn in the economy.