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Photo: GM Housing Action

A forum to empower renters

Living in Manchester, it’s hard to miss the reality that the city is facing a housing crisis. The most evident aspect of this is the growing number of rough sleepers, but this is a symptom of a wider issue of a defective housing system.

Often left out of the dialogue is how this failing system is impacting students who live in private rented accommodation. Just a quick scan of ‘Fallowfield Student Group’ reveals horror stories of rogue landlords causing problems, from lack of care taken for properties resulting in damp and mould (and subsequently slugs), to deposits not being returned, to broken down boilers. Further to this, climbing rents are forcing more students into part-time work to the detriment of their health and studies.

This situation is so common that students have joined forces to create a ‘landlord blacklist’ to warn future students of landlords who frequently cause issues.

The problem is found across Greater Manchester. In fact, according to a study by New Economy Manchester, one in five tenants have rented a poorly-maintained home, and one in ten have experienced problems with landlords.

In response to these issues, a powerful housing movement is forming in the region. Greater Manchester Housing Action (GMHA) is part of this movement. GMHA is a partnership of individuals, communities, charities, and academics. It seeks to develop an empowered and educated housing movement, to enable greater citizen input into housing policy and form a coordinated network of different actors pushing together for change.

One way that GMHA aims to tackle housing issues is to give those renting a voice, a historical first in Manchester at the Renters’ Forum which will take place on March 1 (6:30 -9:00pm) at the Mechanics Institute.

The aim of the forum is to provide a platform for renters, support services, and campaigning organisations, helping to shift the power imbalance and empowering renters to exercise their rights. Those struggling to access or living in private rented housing will be able to speak directly with policy makers and council leaders, demanding for improvements and change.

The event is the product of a collaboration of various housing campaign groups including Tenants Union UK, GM Shelter and Acorn Communities Manchester.

The Forum is an important opportunity for students who are powerless and voiceless within their housing options and susceptible to exploitation from rogue landlords. Siobhan Donnachie from GMHA highlights that “we need to ensure that student tenants, landlords and universities work together in the interests of those renting, which can only be achieved by amplifying the voices of students and highlighting that they have a right to housing which is safe, secure and affordable.”

The forum has garnered support from the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the City Mayor of Salford and GMCA lead for Housing, Paul Dennett, both of whom will be attending the event to listen to the concerns of renters.

Andy Burnham says: “for too long Parliament has neglected the private rented sector. As a result, renters have been left without rights and without a voice. In Greater Manchester we want this to change and that’s why we strongly support the Renters’ Forum.”

Tickets to this event are limited so head to the events Eventbrite page to grab yourself one:

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Tags: dodgy landlords, landlords, Manchester, renters forum

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