Last October, the Salford Star reported that over 15,000 socially rented homes in Salford were unfit, and that the figure had actually increased - despite a Government target that all social homes in the country should be brought up to the decency standard by 2010.
We can now reveal that the number of unfit houses owned by the Council and social landlords, together with those in private hands totals a shocking 28,903 – around one third of all homes in Salford.
A survey of social landlords in the city produced the following results…
City West: 8281 properties non decent (56.4% of total stock)
Salix Homes: 4953 properties projected non decent (59.88% of total stock)
Council run PFI area: 1081 properties non decent (51.48% of total stock)
Contour: 58 properties non decent (7.83% of total stock)
Great Places: 8 properties non decent (0.5% of total stock)
Sutton: 43 properties non decent (10.75% of total stock)
Meanwhile, official Salford Council estimates of private homes for the city show 14,479 properties (22.1%) failing to meet the decency standard, with an estimated 11,689 houses that contain a `Category 1 Hazard' under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System – meaning an accident is very likely to occur and result in extreme or fatal injury.
Some time ago Salford Council introduced the `Salford Standard', which went beyond the Government definition of decency to include things like double glazing, burglar alarms and car parking. Our survey of the Council and social landlords reveal that none of their houses currently either meets or is measured against this standard.
"In stark terms, 0% of our properties can be said to meet this (Salford) standard" says Tim Doyle, Chief Executive for City West Housing "We are measuring the number of Salford Standard elements that have been completed across our stock on a rolling basis. As at today (Nov 2009), this stands at 4.21% with an end of year (31.3.10) target of 8.54%"
Salix Homes told us that 1,116 homes had been brought up to the `Salix Standard' since 2007 which provides "additional elements over and above the basic standard". Great Places, Contour and Sutton do not measure their houses against the Salford Standard at all. Contour, for instance, stated that they "operate across 27 different local authority areas and so it is unfeasible…We use the national government approved standard which is the one we are legally obliged to report on."
If the Salford Standard means virtually nothing now in terms of housing decency, even the much lower Government standard isn't being met.
A report in January this year by Kevin Brady, Salford's Assistant Chief Executive, stated that the Council's target for reducing non decent housing in 2009/10 "will not be met".
"We did not meet the 2008/09 target and at present improvement against this measure depends on funding being available to improve homes" he wrote "This funding relies on achievement of a 2 star inspection rating but will be deferred even if this rating is achieved."
Salix Homes, the arms length Council company that manages social rent homes, has just had an inspection by the Audit Commission and needs to achieve a 2 star rating to draw down £70million of government money for non decent housing. As Brady states, even if it gets this rating, the funding has been deferred until 2011/12, provided it's not cut by any future government.
A spokesperson for Salford Council and Salix said "Pending the inspection result Salix Homes will continue to manage the social housing stock in Central Salford. The Council will take a view on the future of Salix Homes once we know the result of the inspection. However, as things stand we are planning an investment programme with Salix from 2011 onwards that will aim to meet the decent homes target in as short a time as is practically possible."
In the meantime there are ongoing improvements being made to non decent homes in the city. Tim Doyle of City West Housing says that the company expects to reduce the number of its homes that don't meet national standards "quite rapidly as our investment programme is now gathering momentum…but it should be noted that there will be a jump in March 2010 when another batch of properties become defined as non decent…With such a high proportion falling into this category it does take time."
Contour told us that its 58 properties currently defined as not meeting the standard "should have work completed on them before the end of 2010" and Andrew Thompson, head of housing north for Affinity Sutton said that work has started on refurbishment and redevelopment at its properties at Humphrey Booth Gardens which will be complete by 2011… "Upon completion, all of our 400 homes in Salford will exceed the Decent Homes Standard."
The spokesperson for Salix and Salford Council added "Decent homes in Pendleton will be delivered via the Private Finance Initiative and this will commence in 2011. Decent homes in Salford are still our objective."
In the meantime, thousands of Salford people are living in unfit social rent housing, while, as far as we know, there are no plans for funding to improve private housing that fails to meet decency standards.
In its latest report, the Audit Commission states… "Too many homes remain in a poor condition. Despite progress, not enough homes meet the national decent homes rating for minimum standards. 1 in 3 homes in Salford are in poor condition. Funding to complete the work needed to raise standards has not yet been secured meaning there are limited prospects of improvement in the short term. Improving the standard of homes is important as it helps more people feel safe and healthy."