Critics say we have built a neoliberal playground for developers and middle class consumers. But that’s not exactly what the data shows
This is a great piece. It perfectly illustrates the serious journalism that we get by paying for the Manchester Mill.
I have always regarded it as obvious that building flats where bright ambitious young people want to live is good for Manchester. Accordingly I welcome a serious attempt to look at what the data shows.
Excellent piece, Daniel. We are beginning to see a response by residential property developers to those once-young flat-dwellers in central Manchester and Salford who want things later in life that they can’t get there. There are massive opportunities here for other boroughs that can get the mix of green space, schooling and neighbourhood facilities for incomers right. Your analysis suggests that won’t happen in the posh suburbs where NIMBY power is at its greatest but it could be good news for other bits of Grater Manchester that haven’t seen much benefit from growth so far.
This is the sort of article that led me to becoming a paying subscriber a few months ago.
I’m not going to go into detailed commentary because I could go on all day, and I’d be repeating a lot of what’s in the article, but the salient point for me is around the increase in housing needed for job growth and the city centre becoming a place that people actually want to live and work. I was in a meeting recently with a company with offices in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield and they said they struggle to recruit graduates in those locations because they all want to work in the Manchester office.
It’s true there’s a generation of young people living a 10 minute bus ride away where far more needs to be done to help them chart a path to employment in the city centre (if that’s what they want) but I believe this can be done whilst attracting talent from across the country.
Final point, there’s nothing that annoys me more than the lazy commentary that Manchester is no longer for Mancunians.
I think it would be interesting to come back to this in five years. At the moment, there’s a huge influx into the City Centre. Loads of flats going up, loads of young professionals establishing themselves and putting roots down here.
As your article points out, where are those people going to want to live in five years? Probably places like Didsbury, Chorlton, Prestwich etc. There will end up being a lot of overspill and in turn traditionally more ‘working class’ areas around those places becoming more expensive. It’s already happening but I think it’s about to get a lot worse. And that’s when there will be the most notable displacement.
I usually find your analysis great, Daniel, but this one left me wanting. Your point on "breaking basic economic theory" is a strawman and derails what could have been more interesting analysis. There is another glaring option to argue: housing is not a free market.
The second half of the piece, looking at social mobility, was really interesting. I would have loved more about how your data analysis supported people's stories. For example, there was nothing about what proportion of a person's salary is being spent on rent, which is a huge cause for concern (especially in the city centre), and what affect in general the housing prices are having on quality of life.
Lastly, a question: why is the social mobility graph for sons only? What happened to all the women?!
Great balanced article. More housing in “affluent” suburbs would be good, but as we have seen with Ryebank Fields that is often challenging.
I'm afraid I can't echo the positive comments here: this is a disappointingly incomplete look at the topic, all the more frustrating by its implied claim to being comprehensive and unbiased. Firstly, though it purports to present the critical view at the top of the article, with short quotations from Jon Silver and Isaac Rose, it actually gives no detail on crucial pillars of their argument. As Silver says, "the question is what could have been" - but this point isn't actually explored.
There's a very large body of research (including from Silver), about how publicly-owned land has been sold off at low prices in opaque deals with little to no public oversight. (Some of which has been reported in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jul/21/great-english-city-sold-abu-dhabis-elite-manchester) This doesn't get a single mention in the article, nor (beyond a drive-by quote from Rose which goes nowhere) does the failure to get Section 106 money or build affordable housing into new developments.
There are also subjects notable by absence. Surprising a data-focused article doesn't cite figures on rent increases (20% in Manchester and 17% in Salford from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022), or recent figures showing that new social housing lets are down nearly 60% in a decade. As 'Matt' mentions below you could also explore the cost of rent as a % of income. And the 'basic economic theory' point is too pat: it's pretty obvious the housing market doesn't operate as simply as the author describes. He alludes to this point briefly, but again doesn't actually go into any detail.
I appreciate the Mill is and should be a broad-ish political church, and as a reader I don't have a problem with authors taking a different line to me - but if an article purports to present both sides of something it has to do so comprehensively and this doesn't.
Older generations are starting to move in - those downsizing looking for cultural activities on their doorstep - which is great. However a lack of schooling and other facilities is a major issue for those in their 30s or 40s. Lots of 2 bed flats for sale with a cot, so clearly people looking for some outside space and schools. A mix of different generations would be great for the feel and also safety of central Manchester, similar to some European cities, and better for long term sustainability.
Palpably, people who live in Ladybarn and Longsight, Collyhurst and Clayton are not Deansgate Square dwellers setting in lower branches. The choices are not solely economic. There are cultural options in play, that make the townships at least as attractive as Great Ancoats Street and Middlewood Locks. Daniel’s analysis is thorough as ever, though I don’t think he answers many of the questions he poses: “who is winning and losing in this era of steroidal growth in Manchester?” “Cui bono?” (Nice touch, that.)
There’s attractive new build & crap new build across the city centre, and a constantly churning market that will swirl around, settle for a while, hop over the road, and then drain away in search of grass, child care and good schools. And there’s Edgeley and Davenport, Moston and Patricroft, places with needs, for sure, but whose identities are somehow intact. To my thinking (and it is there somewhere in Daniel’s coloured dots and jagged lines) so long as Manchester continues to stick out its elbows (continues to be “up itself”, in Stuart Maconie’s words), continues to welcome students and young people of all sorts and origins, and to treat them responsibly and kindly, high-rise and low-rise, central and suburban will find ways to flourish. I’m not so worried by Thornley Groves as I am by Greater Manchester Police.
fantastic. a great bit of data crunching and a refreshing change from the absolute piffle i read and hear about how manchester and its people are being destroyed by (usually) the chinese building tower blocks which have displaced the (non-existent) communities in the town centre. another excellent (though not data driven) analysis comes from andy spinoza's book, an essential reading of manchester in the last 40 years. while i frequently despair of the way that capitalism works and the country is spectacularly centralised in terms of resource and decision making, the extraordinary covert alliance between the Conservative government, MCC and all manner of big businesses has created a virtuous cycle in this city that leaves all other provincial cities in its wake.
Thanks Daniel for the article. I think it's really important to write about these issues and have a serious conversation about ways forward for Manchester and to use the (very limited) data to support this conversation. I thought the attempt to bring in the experience of young people from Harpurhey was really important but required a great deal more exploration and I'd like to see you or others at the Mill look in more detail at the economics of these "left behind" areas. This for me is the failure of the economic miracle of Manchester. Since the de-industrialisation of Manchester in the 70s, swathes of North Manchester have been among the most disadvantaged areas in England with the poorest health with large numbers of economically inactive people. I think these are the people who are being pushed out by the growth of the centre based on experience of working in those communities rather than stats. This is certainly true of the developments in Collyhurst where former council housing is being replaced by executive properties.
So, the key economic and social question for me is what approach should Manchester take to improve the outlook of these poor areas, as building in the centre of Manchester is not doing it and things are getting worse not better. Many facilities in North Manchester have shut down due to government cuts and other places of community connection such as pubs and cafes have closed down. Change in these areas is likely to be about the interaction between the social, the public and the private and looking through a purely economic lens has not and is not going to provide the solution.
As you cover to some extent in your article it is important to see Manchester city centre in relation to the rest of Manchester and Greater Manchester, and not in isolation.
A great article, as a resident of Moss Side, it seems that the council are missing a trick by allowing house after house to be turned into HMO (house of multiple occupancy) in the area, the majority of 2-3 bed terrace houses are perfect for people looking to move out of the city centre but who want to avoid long commuting times with public transport currently getting worse by the day. The prices of these properties however is inflated due being advertised as buy to let (either to be let to students or as Air BnB's) meaning that people wanting to buy in the area are priced out. These landlords, whilst not always being bad, are in the most part in it to make money and so do not invest in the house and allow many aspects to fall into disrepair and abuse back alleys by turning them into their own personal dumping grounds.
If the council do not act to change this, we will see Moss Side and fellow surrounding areas become slums before 2030, possibly this is what the council intends so that they can flatten it and fill with high rises, but that's not for me to say : )
It’s a relief to read a balanced article about regeneration and who benefits. The process wasn’t perfect but there were no models around at that time, so we had to do our best. We tried to encourage local people to stay and ensure enough social housing was built for those that wanted it. We set up employment and training schemes, computer courses, community enterprises, youth clubs, play schemes and crèches in the neighbourhoods, all to try to make the regen opportunities accessible to people. But of course we were initiating change in neighbourhoods that hadn’t changed much in generations, so it was very tough for some local people and not everyone did benefit. And change takes a long time - I would say generations. So I think it’s still early days to evaluate the pros and cons, but I personally much prefer this lively city centre we have now to the dead dead place it was when only about 300 people lived there, and shops were boarded up and it was all but deserted at night when all the shoppers and workers went home.
Regeneration failing in Manchester was PRS strategy pushed by greedy developers, business advisory sector, Dickie Lease and Bernstein aka Mr Deloitte
Manctopia was an epic PR fail that attempted to whitewash the housing crisis caused and defend those who made and are still making some appalling decisions in Manchester
Affordable housing to buy and social housing to rent should have been part of the regeneration strategy and it wasn’t
Brilliant article Daniel.
Very interesting and well researched. Thoroughly thought provoking. Thank you.
Does 'elementary occupations' include care workers? I'd expect cleaners in a city centre, and students often make up bar worker numbers, but just wondering about care workers. Not sure what point I'm trying to winkle out here, but something about who is living in the centre and who most definitely isn't. Maybe I need a coffee and to reread and come back with a proper question...😄