Last week the Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) unveiled its manifesto and offered a pledge to build 16,000 new homes over the next five years. Here, Lee Sugden, chief executive of Salix Homes, offers his personal take on this commitment and why it matters
I was born in 1970 in Rochdale, Lancashire. A traditional mill town that had boomed in the Industrial Revolution. With its wet climate perfect for cotton spinning, it led the world with wealth and prosperity for the mill owners. It also spawned the Cooperative movement – famous the world-over.
Soon after I was born, on 1 April 1974, Greater Manchester was created following the Local Government Act of 1972, and the identity of my place of birth was aligned with this new regional entity.
In the intervening years, this new identity did not, however, seem to dampen the pioneering spirit of Rochdale or the nine other boroughs across the city region.
Indeed, Greater Manchester has continued to blaze a trail for others to follow: Urban conurbations the length and breadth of the country need look no further than our city region to see how collaboration can work.
Manchester Airport is part owned by the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester; the development of a tram system has brought many of the boroughs closer together over recent years; and of course last year, Andy Burnham was elected the first Mayor of Greater Manchester, with devolved powers, only exceeded by the London Mayor
So, what does this have to with housing? Well, as with many other areas, housing provision has also changed over time, with many councils using either the arms-length (ALMO) or stock transfer routes to lever in much-needed investment to social housing provision.
And social housing plays such a vital role in Greater Manchester, with double the national average density of social housing in the region, more than 250,000 homes housing one in five of the population.
Some years ago, way before the Metro Mayor was elected, housing leaders in Greater Manchester realised that a collective voice could shout louder than the individual components (although there are some who would challenge this assumption) and 17 of the region’s social housing providers decided to hold regular meetings to explore areas where working together they could make a bigger impact.
Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) was born.
Today, all the significant housing providers in the region play a role in GMHP, and with an increasing profile for Metropolitan Mayors and devolution deals, the foresight of the benefits of collaboration some years ago have placed GMHP at the forefront of Greater Manchester’s policy makers.
Today GMHP members are gripped by the inescapable challenges of the housing crisis. Already GMHP has developed and is delivering the most successful Social Impact Bond to respond to street homelessness in the UK. The partnership has also created a unique joint venture with local authority partners to bring additional new housing to places that desperately need it.
It’s pioneering stuff, but we recognise we need to do more.
At a special meeting of the Greater Manchester All Party Parliamentary Group last week, GMHP launched a new ambition to deliver for Greater Manchester. This sets out five ambitions to stretch further our contribution to the region and reaches out to all partners to work together, to innovate, and ultimately, to explore new ways to continue the evolution of collaboration in Greater Manchester.
GMHP members have a track record of being the ‘go to’ partners to tackle some of the key challenges facing the region and already play a major role in delivering the 227,000 more homes needed across the city region over the next 20 years.
We have the capacity, determination and infrastructure to build even more homes, create more jobs, tackle homelessness, connect health and housing and maximise the Greater Manchester pound.
We’ve made a start but we cannot achieve all these alone. It is only by continuing our long history of working together that we can make a real difference to the lives and opportunities for residents of the region, lives that start with a warm, safe place to put down roots in a community, in a place that you can call home.
Greater Manchester has blazed a trail for so much of the fabric of modern society, and its collaboration at regional level is part of that.
GMHP is proving that this collaboration can work for housing as well and is setting a blueprint for how the housing sector in the country’s devolved areas can work together to tackle the big housing issues facing our regions.
This is our ambition to deliver.
Read GMHP’s Ambition to Deliver manifesto at www.gmhousing.co.uk
Follow the consortium on Twitter @gmhousing
Lee Sugden is chief executive of Salix Homes.