Manchester City Council’s affordable housing claims just don’t add up

Weeks after MM revealed that Manchester City Council made false claims in its official response to the city’s affordable housing scandal, the council has still not publicly corrected itself.

A Guardian investigation dubbed Manchester the ‘0% city’ last month, claiming that none of the 14,667 homes approved by the council’s planning committee in the last two years are set to be affordable.

In response to the investigation, the council refuted claims made by the Guardian calling its conclusion “categorically incorrect”.

However, the council falsely claimed that 10.7% of homes approved in that two-year period can be classed as affordable.

In a statement issued on March 7, the council challenged the Guardian’s 0% figure, claiming that the data analysed in the investigation didn’t include any applications approved by delegated powers within which 900 homes could be classed as affordable.

The council also claimed that within the applications that were looked at by the Guardian, 600 homes were “demonstrably affordable”, and argued that student accommodation should be taken out of the equation.

The council’s official response was that its new figure of 10.7% compares favourably to other major UK cities such as Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham and Bristol, who all fall below the 10% mark.

If 1,500 affordable homes made up 10.7% of all homes approved in 2016 and 2017, as the council claimed, this would mean that the total number of homes approved in that period was 14,018.

But taking away student accommodation from the 14,667 homes covered by the Guardian would leave 13,209, which means that the missed applications could not have possibly contained as many as 900 affordable homes.

A council source confirmed that there were not 1,500 affordable homes approved during that period as originally claimed, blaming the “overestimation” on short notice.

After revising this figure to 850 affordable homes, the council source claimed that the correct statistic is that 6.2% of all homes approved by the council in those two years were affordable.

MM pointed out this mistake to the council in March, but despite providing a revised figure, the council has not formally corrected its false claim that 10.7% of homes approved in 2016 and 2017 would be affordable.

The original press statement which uses the mathematically impossible 10.7% figure has now been removed from the council’s website but further clarifications did not address the miscalculation.

The Guardian accepted that its investigation did not consider the additional applications which were approved without going through the planning committee and removed reference to Manchester being the ‘0% city’ from the headline.

Helen Pidd, the Guardian’s North of England editor who led the investigation, said that following publication, the council provided her with information about an additional 850 affordable homes across 19 developments approved by delegated powers and amended the article accordingly on March 22.

However, a council source told MM that many of these additional applications were for small developments that may have as little as 10 homes.

The council’s policy for affordable homes is that 20% of new developments consisting of more than 15 homes should be affordable.

Therefore, it remains unclear how many of these additional 850 affordable homes are actually relevant to the revised figure of 6.2%

For the full feature-length analysis of this issue, please read our March e-edition.

Image courtesy of Irwellian via Flickr, with thanks.

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