'Rent is going up, wages aren't': Care worker on Manchester housing list for ten years refused a council home because he moved to Trafford
A care worker who has been on the waiting list for a council house in Manchester for ten years has been refused a home because he moved down the road to Trafford.
Andy Ollerenshaw breached Manchester's 'continuous residency' requirement - which means applicants must live in the city council boundaries for two years - by living in the nursing home where he was working in Altrincham.
Andy, who grew up in Harpurhey, first applied for social housing in Manchester ten years ago because he wanted to leave the family home.
“I got a job, I wanted to move out and have my own independence,” Andy, 30, told the M.E.N.
“They said because I lived with my mum and had a job, I would be eligible but I would need to wait on the list for a good few years, which was totally fine.
“I had it in my head that I might be able to have my own home by the time I was 25.”
At the age of 25 Andy was still waiting to be allocated a property, however, and so he ended up moving to Trafford to live with a partner.
However that relationship broke down a year later, and Andy found himself homeless for a couple of days, before securing staff accommodation at the nursing home where he worked in Altrincham.
Altrincham comes under Trafford Council, and so Andy turned to them in a new attempt to find a home in the area. But Trafford Housing Trust told him he would need to have lived in the borough for at least five years before he could be considered for a property there.
“I just felt like I was being passed from pillar to post,” he said.
“I would go back-and-forth between local councils and no one could help me.”
This year, a relative of Andy's became ill and so he decided to move back to the city of Manchester to help, finding a shared property on the street where he grew up in Harpurhey.
But when he got in touch with Manchester Move, the partnership between Manchester council and landlords which links property seekers with social housing, he was told that his application had now been rejected because he had not been a ‘continuous resident in the Manchester City Council area for at least two years'.
“I’m born and bred in Manchester, I've been a resident of Manchester up until I was 24 and then I moved to Trafford,” Andy said.
“I was still under the impression that because Trafford is classed as Greater Manchester then it wouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s stopping me from moving on, I feel like I just can’t have an independent life.
“It’s just got really frustrating over the last few years, especially when you see all the empty houses and you hear people talking about the housing crisis - I feel like I'm the one in the crisis.”
Andy says he has been unable to dispute his application as he cannot get past an automated system to speak to someone directly.
“I feel like I'm hitting a brick wall every time,” he added.
“I feel like I’m just being passed around and I think it’s really unfair. I reckon there’s a lot of people in a similar position as me.
“I’ve always had a job and a good one at that - working in nursing and now working for a hotel - and it always plays on my mind that I'm never going to be able to move on.
“I wanted a council house to serve as a stepping stone with cheaper rent so I could save up money to get my own house.
“I don’t want to play the system, I don't want to embellish and blag my way into it and I’ve tried to be as open and honest as I can.
“I think people need to be aware of how difficult it can be for people like myself to try and save up and get on the property ladder. Rent is going up and wages aren’t.”
The Manchester housing knockback came after a couple of difficult years for Andy.
He says his mental health declined when he was living at the Altrincham nursing home because he felt his independence being stripped from him.
Meanwhile, in October 2019, he found out his former girlfriend had died. He was still dealing with the grief when lockdown hit.
At the start of the year, Andy lost another friend to suicide. He then found out a family member was ill and he needed to move back to Harpurhey to help.
He quit his job before moving into the shared property in March.
“I live in a shared house, it’s noisy and I want to move out but I can’t find anything I can afford,” Andy said.
“I feel like I’m at a loss. The house prices are just not affordable, especially when you’re single.”
Describing how he felt before he moved back to Manchester, Andy says, “My mental health was really struggling.
“It just got very depressing living in the nursing home, I was still grieving and I was always on call at work.
“I was always picking up hours because there was nothing else to do and when I wasn’t working, I just spent the time drinking.”
Andy says he now wants the system for social housing in Manchester to be improved to avoid others falling into a similar position as him.
“I’d like them to make their policies clearer,” he explains.
“They trap people who don’t have anywhere else to go so they become forced into having to accept places with high rent because they have no options.
“I want them to evaluate how they see people for their eligibility for housing.”
Government policy encourage local councils to include residency requirements as part of their allocation policies, with two years being the minimum requirement.
Manchester council confirmed that Andy’s application didn’t meet the requirements for emergency rehousing and that his time away from Manchester would be a barrier.
A representative also confirmed that his application did not include some required information that was requested to evidence some points made.
It’s not known if this information would have affected the decision.
A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: "Manchester has incredibly high demand for social housing and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Therefore, a carefully considered allocations policy is in place to support those that need social housing most.
"The allocations policy does require at least two years of consecutive residency in Manchester as social housing should support residents who live in the city first.
"However, an applicant is welcome to appeal a decision about their rehousing application. This should be done through the social landlord their application was allocated to. In this case, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group.
"The Council has also committed to increasing the number of social and affordable homes in the city to meet high demand - and the Council is on track to far outstrip the target (6,400 homes between 2015 and 2025) for new affordable housing in the city, and more than 7,000 homes are expected to be built up to 2025."
Trafford Council said a number of factors are taken into account when determining whether an application has a local connection with Trafford.
A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “These factors include, but are not solely limited to, whether an applicant or a member of their household included in their application:
• has lived in Trafford by choice for a certain time (six months out of the last 12).
• has close family living in Trafford, who have lived in the borough for at least the previous five years; (normally defined as parent/s or children).
• has settled employment in the Trafford area.
• has special circumstances that give rise to a local connection
“The Council can’t comment on individual applications, but if the applicant wishes to discuss their application in more detail then they should contact HOST on 0161 912 2230 or email HOST@trafford.gov.uk “