Leader of the Council’s Blog: Addressing the Housing Emergency in Oldham and Prioritizing Our Locals

Oldham is facing a housing crisis.

There are 7,500 families on Oldham’s social housing register – with almost 11,000 applications still being processed.

Many of these families have been desperately bidding on properties, without any success, through no fault of their own. 

To be frank – there simply aren’t enough homes to meet the demand. In fact, it would take over a century to provide homes for everyone. 

For those fortunate enough to have a home: too many residents in Oldham are living in appalling conditions, where they are forced to jeopardise their children’s health just to have a roof over their heads. There are also too many overcrowded homes and individuals struggling to afford their rent and mortgages. 

We have become desensitized to the word “crisis” in recent years. Housing is a fundamental human right. Yet, thousands of people in our town are deprived of it. This is undoubtedly a crisis.   

Can you imagine not having a place to call home for years? Never being able to establish roots? Your children never sleeping in their own beds at night? 

This is the heart-wrenching reality for numerous individuals in our community. 

Currently, there are 470 homeless households in temporary accommodation. This number has doubled since the same month in 2021, when it stood at 233 households. 

The failure of the housing market is pushing families into dire circumstances. People who were previously “getting by” in life now find themselves at the mercy of private landlords, facing job losses, failed businesses, and more.   

The cost-of-living crisis has further exacerbated the flaws in our broken housing system. Private sector rents have increased by £168 per month in just the past two years. Mortgage interest rates are rising, leaving homeowners struggling to make payments and causing buy-to-let landlords to pass on the increases to their tenants. All of this is occurring alongside the ever-increasing costs of energy and food.

Research indicates that one in five families are only one paycheck away from financial disaster. This could easily be you or someone you know. 

A glimmer of hope is that Housing Allowance is finally being increased after being frozen for far too long. While this is a welcome relief for the thousands of people who depend on it to afford their rent, the government needs to expedite this change. April 2024 is too late, and far too many families will face several difficult months struggling to pay their bills and worrying about keeping a roof over their heads.

We will continue to protect renters to the best of our abilities. Our Selective Licensing Scheme is in place across specific areas of the borough to ensure that private landlords have a license and adhere to certain standards for their tenants – and if they do not, we will take action.

We also have a Tenants Charter, which informs residents of what they can expect from their landlords and how to seek assistance if needed. When a landlord fails to properly carry out repairs and maintenance, we will investigate.

However, ultimately, what will fix this broken system is an increase in social housing – enabling us to remove individuals from waiting lists that have stretched on for decades and place them in suitable homes. We have an ambitious Housing Strategy, but we are struggling to meet the overwhelming demand.

Under this government, the number of social homes built has been reduced by 80%. That means 30,000 fewer social rented homes are being constructed each year. 

The government must make a greater effort. They must put an end to rough sleeping. The promised ban on ‘no fault’ evictions must be implemented to provide private tenants with the security they need. And they must support first-time buyers with discounted homes, prioritizing local residents when constructing new homes in their area. 

As a council, we witness firsthand the impact that this housing crisis is having on our borough and our residents. We will do everything within our power to advocate for change.  

To begin, I will be hosting a Housing Roundtable on 1 February, bringing together key partners, including council services, social housing providers, and representatives from the private rented sector, so that we can collectively take local action. 

This will not merely be a discussion, but a platform for real, decisive action – and we will provide updates on our progress.

Every resident of Oldham deserves to live in a decent, affordable home. A home that is free from damp and mould, where they can live without the fear of being evicted or priced out, a place where they can feel safe.

We cannot wait for the government to take action – we are stepping up, we are taking action now.

If you are concerned about your housing situation or struggling with the cost of living, we are here to help. Visit www.oldham.gov.uk/wecanhelp for advice on a range of issues or speak to one of our dedicated advisors on 0161 770 7007. 

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