Councillors move to improve private renting conditions in Withington after heated debate

  • Labour councillor's motion sees plans to improve private renting and landlord practice in Withington
  • Enables all residents to have a 'safe and secure home'
  • Private renting accounts for more than 50% of the area's homes
  • Lib Dem councillor John Leech opposes 'party political nonsense', believing more needs to be done within private sector

A move to improve private renting standards was passed unanimously at a Manchester city council meeting, despite heated disagreement among Withington councillors.

The motion, which was proposed by Councillor Becky Chambers, aims to tackle poor-quality rental practices and rogue landlords said to be common in Withington and surrounding wards.

“In Manchester, private rented housing accounts for 38% of households, which equates to around 90,000 homes,” said Councillor Chambers.

In Withington, more than 50% of homes are privately rented.

Local neighbourhoods are blighted by bad landlord practices

“Everyone has the right to a safe and secure home,” she added, blaming the Conservative government and subsequent underfunding for the council’s struggle in meeting housing requirements.

“Unfortunately, thousands of tenants across the city continue to live in poor conditions and are paying extortionate rent to do so. On top of this, local neighbourhoods are blighted by bad landlord practices,” she said.

The motion will give the council increased power against landlord discrimination and malpractice, as well as offering a simplified process of action for residents.

“We will be offering a route for residents to challenge bad landlord practice that doesn’t involve costly solicitors or intimidating legal processes,” Councillor Chambers said.

Councillor Becky Chambers, Labour, Withington, Manchester, council meeting
Councillor Chambers and councillor White, who both supported the motion, were in attendance at the council meeting last week

Withington Lib Dem councillor, John Leech, raised questions about the motion to ensure tenants have a “safe, secure, warm and insulated home”.

“Who are you trying to kid that the current housing crisis only started in 2010? The housing crisis has been going on far longer than the conveniently chosen date,” he said, describing the motion as Labour’s “party political nonsense”.

Your affordable housing policy is a big con, and far more needs to be done

“Nothing is more inaccurate and typical of the level of complacency of Labour councillors than paragraph five, which falsely claims that under Labour leadership the council made great efforts to ensure that Mancunians have access to good quality, affordable housing.”

He claimed the number of affordable rented homes in Manchester had only increased by 257 since 2015 under the Labour council.

“Your affordable housing policy is a big con, and far more needs to be done to provide the quality and number of affordable homes that Manchester residents need and deserve,” he said, despite ultimately supporting the motion.

Councillor Chambers responded: “I was disappointed though not surprised to hear councillor Leech deliberately misinterpret the spirit of my motion.

“It’s interesting to hear him speak about this issue today because a quick Hansard search will tell you that in his ten years as a member of Parliament for Manchester Withington, he didn’t mention landlord licensing once.”

Other councillors supported the motion.

“This motion levels a historically uneven playing field that has become even worse throughout the pandemic whilst incomes have fallen and welfare dependency has increased,” said Councillor Gregg Stanton.

Councillor Gavin White added: “I welcome this motion, and I agree that we need to see everybody in the city have a decent, safe, secure and affordable home to live in, and this motion gives us the power to do this in the private rented sector.”

The motion was unanimously passed by council.

After the meeting, Councillor Chambers said: “I’m really pleased that my motion to council this morning on standards in private rented housing passed unanimously.

“Over 50% of residents in Withington ward rent privately and taking action against rogue landlords is a priority for the Withington Labour team.”

The new rules will prevent discriminatory practices from licensed landlords, work to stop properties from being empty for extended periods, and allow the council to lobby the government to introduce greater regulation over private rented landlords.