Manchester or Manhattan?

The skyline of Manchester has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. In fact, there are now 9 new towers over 25 stories high that were not part of the skyline a mere 3 years ago. So why is Manchester, the only city in the UK outside of London, the only city to see this phenomenon and what is the driver? Well, it would seem that a combination of cheap finance, a desire for city centre living, and the demands of a young ever richer group of homeowners is driving the skyline of Manchester ever higher along with the prices.

According to statistics, the latest ‘Crane Survey’ (a study that doesn’t look at the amount of cranes, but concentrates on new starts on developments) had reached 43 in 2018. This compares to 32 in 2017, with a total of 73 schemes in all versus 63 last year, and represents a 12% increase year on year. Is this a lot you ask? Well, back in 2011, there was on record just 1 new start, these are indeed dramatic statistics. In addition, it is important to note that these new developments aren’t office blocks, they are all in fact residential buildings, and this level of building means that downtown Manchester is the fastest growing of any major city in Europe. Manchester city centre is now home to some 50,000 residents, and continues to grow at a record pace with an expectation of that figure to grow to at least 100,000 in the next 5 years.

So with figures like that, how is Manchester expected to cope? This year alone, there are 14,000 units under construction, and with demand expected the delivery of apartments in the city centre continues. What is driving this demand? Affordability has been a factor, with Manchester city centre still being well within the grasp of most, despite record growth figures affordability rates remain at relatively good levels, around 5x annual salaries in the area. Couple this with an ever growing young dynamic workforce who are in higher paid jobs, the desire for city centre living is greater than ever. This young workforce enjoy the convenience this affords, nightlife, ease of commute, the need to not have a car, all of these are attractive to a younger generation. Manchester now boast a rich and diverse cultural experience and is truly a 24 hour city, where once it was a desolate and depressing place with little to do beyond the working hours.

But why Manchester? Despite the fact that Manchester is at the centre of the Northern Powerhouse phenomenon there are other factors that have helped push development on this scale in this city alone. A major one has been the use of a £300m Housing fund that was provided by the government to promote inner city growth and help kick start housing projects. What this has done is enabled developers to access cheap financing that they would have otherwise had to get from Banks at higher levels, and it has been this that has bought developers in their droves to the city.

This has helped kickstart the regeneration process that has now reached it’s own critical mass, and has turned Manchester into the desirable city of the 21st century that it is, and is fast becoming an internationally recognised destination for both business and tourists alike, something that in time may come to rival London.

Further reading