Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Abbey Hey Residents' Association (EMP 62)



  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" scheme.

  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 a street.

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 is drug-related.

4.  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 here—all 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.

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