OVER 15,500 UNFIT HOMES IN SALFORD
Way back, the Government set a target that by 2010 all social housing in the country was to be brought up to a decent condition, with most of this improvement taking place in so-called `deprived areas'.
The Government definition of `decent' is, according to Salford Council's website "warm, weatherproof and having reasonably modern facilities". But the Council went further than this and introduced a `Salford Standard' which included burglar alarms, double glazing and good quality street lighting.
One year away from the Government target, Salford Council has now stated that 54.5% of its houses don't even meet the basic decency standard. Indeed, Kevin Brady, Salford's Assistant Chief Executive writes in a Council report that "the number of council-owned homes in the city that do not meet the Government's decency standard has increased rather than reducing"
The Council aimed to reduce its unfit houses to 49% by 2008/9. The current figure is 54.5%, up from 53% in 2006/7. Doing the maths, we reckon that 5830 council owned houses in Salford are unfit. And this doesn't take into account the 14,800 houses given away (or "transferred") to City West Housing last year, of which the company is promising to make 9801 `decent' by the year 2014…and to hit the Salford Standard for decency within 30 years (by which time, everyone who lives in them will presumably be dead given the ridiculously low life expectancy in the city).
A few more sums, and we reckon there are 15,631 unfit Council/City West owned houses in Salford that people are actually living in – houses that aren't "warm, weatherproof and having reasonably modern facilities". And that figure doesn't include other social housing, privately rented housing and privately owned housing.
Brady, in his report, blames the missed target for decent homes on the loss of a £70million Government grant that was due to Salix Homes had it got a 2* rating from the Audit Commission. But the inspection upon which that status depended didn't take place when it should have done in November 2008, and the 2* rating with the funding to sort non-decent Salix housing was lost.
What Brady doesn't write is that it was Salford Council/Salix itself which deferred the inspection, as confirmed to us by the Audit Commission. Which is a bit odd, until it's noticed that the Audit Commission did carry out an `indicative inspection' in February this year and made 58 recommendations for improvement. The next main inspection of Salix doesn't happen until February 2010 which, as Brady recognises, means that Salix may never get the funding to improve non decent housing in Salford.
"Salix Homes was not able to reduce the number of properties that are non decent" he writes "and the targets for 2009/10 and 2010/11 remain similarly at risk. This risk has been heightened by the Government's announcement that it has withdrawn 2011 funding for improving social housing to divert it to the recession money to building affordable new homes."
Rumours abound in the city that Salford Council is going to do what it did in West Salford when it couldn't afford to improve non decent housing – give the houses away to City West (which immediately put the rents up) or another `independent' company. Salix, just a few years after it took over from New Prospect Housing at a massive cost, would cease to exist.
50% IN FUEL POVERTY
In the meantime, it's Salford people living in non decent homes who are having to struggle to survive Salix/Salford Council's mess. People like those living in the towerblock at Arthur Millwood Court, 50% of whom are living in fuel poverty trying to keep out the mould and damp, according to an estimate by Hessel de Boer, chair of The Islington Estate Tenants and Residents Association.
In an open report he writes that he spends £190 a month over the whole year trying to keep his two bedroom high rise flat warm. That's 25% of his income.
"I do heat all my rooms properly in winter as I cannot afford to catch a cold…health wise this would cause my death due to the illness I have" Hessel writes "An additional four heating sources, in addition to the seven inadequate installed ones, are necessary to maintain +18 celcius when it is minus outside. It also could take an hour to fill a full bath while you are waiting for the electric boiler to re-heat. I just top it up with a big pan of boiling water."
He adds that the flats in the block have had hardly any investment since they were built in 1963 and that most other residents in the block complain to him about damp, draught, mould and heating problems, and that some can only afford to heat one room in their flats… "In winter it is an absolute disgrace" he writes.
Hessel moved into his Salix flat in 2007, fully expecting that, in line with Government targets, it would be improved to the `decent home standard' by 2010. Now, no-one knows the future.
We asked the Council lots of questions about the future of homes that don't meet the decency standard in Salford and for details of a report that was supposed to be out at the end of September. So far Salford Council has declined to comment.
QUESTIONS TO SALFORD COUNCIL…
What is the Council's message to Salford people who have to live in homes that aren't of a decent standard?
How can Salix afford to meet its target on decent homes?
Why didn't the formal November inspection happen ?
Would Salix have got the 2* rating, given the 58 recommendations by the Audit Commission?
Given that the next inspection isn't til Feb 2010 and the Government has delayed payments until beyond 2011 to get homes up to a decent home standard, what is the future for Salix?
Is it true that the homes Salix currently managed will be `transferred' to another organisation - City West or a Trust?
What's happened to the Salford Standard ?
How many Council/City West homes in Salford don't meet the decent standard? How many other homes don't meet this standard (Private landlords, RSLs etc)?