Shelter ‘shows the love’ on Valentine’s Day

Some £600,000 on the cards for PRS improvement projects across Greater Manchester.

Signing a rental agreement with a pair of house keys

Shelter ‘shows the love’ to thousands of vulnerable private renters across Greater Manchester on Valentine’s Day – with £600k coming their way through a test-and-learn fund for Fair Housing Futures.

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 Shelter describes as a “broken” private-rented system.

Now, the partnership project – hosted by Shelter and funded by the Nationwide Foundation – aims to transform the way PRS works for vulnerable and low-income tenants across the region.

Radical new schemes powered by the fund will help people overcome barriers to finding and keeping a private rented home.

“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,” said Shelter’s Roli Barker, project manager for Fair Housing Futures.

“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, and proposals flooded in.

Five successful bids have now been announced, plus innovative plans for two new umbrella projects covering local authorities and landlords.

Related 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 it can support landlords with a collaborative approach to the ideas they submitted.

And part of the funding will create an umbrella network for councils, as ideas are explored city-wide in a bid for the systemic impact the project demands.

Bridget Young, programme manager at the Nationwide Foundation, said: “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 – one of the Fund’s beneficiaries – outlined its aim to reduce a reluctance to rent to tenants on benefits that some landlords still have.

He said: “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,” he said.

The project’s working definition of vulnerability is based on the 2018 report Vulnerability amongst Low-Income Households in the Private Rented Sector in England, which defined those vulnerable in the PRS as households at greater risk of harm for reasons that include, and in some instances combine, economic status and income, age, health, and household-demographic characteristics.

Fair Housing Futures – who, what, why

Awardees are granted a sum by the Fair Housing Futures Partnership Board of £460,690 for projects which will run between 2020 and 2022, with £139,310 remaining for separate initiatives.

  • The Bond Board – PRS Navigator: £75, 612

Working 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.

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 landlord to address and respond to anti-social behaviours.

  • Wigan council – Tenant Champion: £100,000

Championing Tenant’s Rights is a two-year project focussing on transforming the private-rented sector in Leigh through a targeted approach and a new dedicated resource of Tenants Champion.

  • Justlife – Outreach/Landlord Liaison Worker: £107,984.50
  • INFORM TO TRANSFORM – aims to improve the experiences of tenants living in Greater Manchester’s ‘hidden’ PRS  by distributing landlord and tenant packs, providing intensive support and advocacy, and increasing  influence through tenant and landlord forums

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