After much talking, we are now beginning to see delivery of Private Rented Sector (PRS) accommodation spread across Manchester’s city centre in particular in recent months. Between 2001 and 2011 this sector alone grew by 62% in the city, and we will continue to see this rise over the next decade due to a range of factors, from affordability to a desire for flexibility. But in ‘a city we wish to continue making for everyone’ (as trailed again by Sir Richard Leese at our recent Autumn drinks reception), I am wondering whether the fastest growing market sector in the city is fully supporting this ambition?
Reviewing the 2011 Census (Household Lifestage data) gives an insight into the number of families with children living in the city centre. We find that 72% of all city centre households are under 35 of which only 2% are two or more person households with dependent children. This contrasts with only 21% of households across the Greater Manchester’s Built Up Area (BUA) aged under 35, of which 43% are two or more persons with dependent children.
The relative youth of city centre households is also reflected in the fact that only 22% are aged 35-54, compared to 40% across the Greater Manchester BUA. As with the under 35s, the relative scarcity of families with children in the 35-54 age group is illustrated by the fact that in the city centre, only 7% are two or more person households with dependent children, compared with 50% across the Greater Manchester BUA.
A picture emerges of a city centre that is failing to retain and attract families with children. But why is that? How significant a part does the city centre housing stock play? Data shows that 40% of city centre households live in one bedroomed accommodation, 27% in two bed and only 2% and 1% in three and four bedroomed accommodation respectively.
So who are we looking to accommodate in the city’s PRS offer today? City living offers huge advantages for young and old, single people and families, from proximity to public transport and employment, shops, services and restaurants. It clearly does less well on PRS desires outlined by some recent New Economy research; close proximity to green space; low crime and anti-social behaviour rate; within a catchment area for a good school; low levels of noise; but it could certainly suit the needs of some.
The high-rise apartment block model going up across the city centre is not necessarily a typology that is meeting the aspirations of families, but this is but one typology. Should Manchester be looking to others which would not compromise the urban density achieved?
I am also keen to consider the opportunity for well-designed PRS to be attractive to the later living market. For many years the existence of elderly people in an urban centre was deemed to be the sign of a failing, ageing economy, but older people can bring vitality and significant economic contributions to an urban setting. For the occupant a proximity to amenities and community brings social opportunity, while for the ‘placemaker’ (developer or Local Authority) you gain the potential for daytime occupation, focused local economic spending, a broader market appeal, Hand illustrated Manchester Map reduced pressure on some infrastructure (education, roads, etc.). It would not only therefore help us achieve a ‘city for everyone’ but also free up much needed family housing in the suburbs.
Delivering diverse communities is a core principle of the Government’s ‘Healthy Towns’ agenda for new settlements and it would be great if we as a city could embrace this opportunity within our strongest growing market sector. Flexibility and some lateral thinking in what we deliver within our city centre and who it appeals to, particularly in terms of the PRS angle, could reap some great benefits for our urban fabric.
We are currently raising funds for Shelter and the Big Change Manchester through the sale of our hand illustrated Manchester City map, have you seen it?
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