"The commitments made on stock transfer are fundamental to the existence of Salix Homes...our main priority is the delivery of our five year stock transfer promises to customers, particularly the commitment to invest in our properties to deliver 100% Decent Homes by 2020..." Salix Homes
Back in November 2014, tenants in east and central Salford voted in favour of the transfer of Salford City Council house stock to Salix Homes. They did so, partly, if not wholly, in the belief that all Salix properties would be brought up to the Decent Homes standard by 2020, and would have new kitchens, bathrooms and more.
Many residents of Canon Green Court in Broughton, seeing the shocking condition of their block, felt that a vote in favour of the transfer would be the only way to improve their living conditions.
"We got lots of brochures through and the picture painted was that if the transfer didn't go through there would be no money available to bring the housing stock up to Decent Homes standard" said one resident, representing a whole group that the Salford Star met with this week.
"That was a big influence in the way I voted, in favour of the transfer because I believed that was the only way we could get improvements in the block that were desperately needed" they added.
Indeed, in February 2015, Salix Homes unveiled details of its investment..."A revamp at Canon Green Court in Broughton is expected to begin next year when the ageing apartment complex will undergo a £2.9m makeover" the company stated.
Lee Sugden, Chief Executive at Salix Homes, added: "This significant level of investment would never have been possible if tenants had not voted to transfer their homes from Salford Council to Salix Homes, so now we owe it to our tenants to deliver on our promises and create the kind of homes and communities that the people of this city deserve.
"Against a backdrop of budget cuts and austerity measures, Salix Homes is extremely proud to be at the heart of one of the biggest and boldest investment programmes for social housing in Salford, which will dramatically improve quality of life for all our tenants" he added.
It's now 2017 and the 'significant level of investment' promised for Canon Green Court still hasn't materialised. Indeed, a few weeks ago residents got a letter from Terry McBride, Development Manager at Salix, explaining that that refurbishment had run into financial problems – because the original estimate of £2.9million allocated to enable modernisation wasn't enough. The cost had jumped to £4.7million, leaving a shortfall of £1.8million.
Salix argued that 'further investigatory work' had identified 'significant investment works' that weren't "identified at the point of transfer, but are essential if the block is to continue to offer a quality of comfort comparable to other modernised homes owned and managed by Salix".
Before the transfer took place, the Salford Star revealed that that £3.24million had been spent on the process by Salford City Council (£1.24million) and Salix Homes (£2million), including a vast amount of money on a 'Stock Condition Survey' by expensively hired consultants.
"It's to do with coldness, condensation, mould and damp in the flats" stated the Canon Green Court resident "Salix claimed that they didn't know of the problems because tenants would only report them individually, and they weren't aware of the total problem."
Salix didn't know that its own tenants were living in almost slum conditions? There was even a residents meeting last year that had 'mice and rat infestations' on the agenda (see here).
To make up the £1.8million shortfall to bring the 113 Canon Green flats up to the Decent Homes level, Salix is now proposing to build "lightweight modular/panellised units on top of Canon Green Court" or "extend the current footprint of the building".
In other words, it's seriously considering shoving a load of flats on top of the low rise block – which will bring even more problems to tenants, such as parking and overcrowded amenities.
Furthermore, the residents the Star spoke to, added that Salix is talking about a figure of around one hundred new flats – almost doubling the current number – a percentage of which will be for private sale or rent.
Canon Green Court is located in what is becoming a prime property area on the edge of Manchester City Centre, in between Blackfriars Road and Trinity Way, and in the middle of loads of new unaffordable private property developments.
Salix calls the building of more flats "viable draft options", and throws in a threat that it's the "most practical way to do this, whilst enduring the existing block and its residents are retained".
The latest accounts for Salix Homes, to March 2016, shows a positive reserve of £37.650million, including a £7.94million 'profit' on its social housing lettings. The company has a £100million loan facility with the Royal Bank of Scotland, from which it has only drawn £30million.
The accounts also show that total 'emoluments', including pension, paid to Salix Chief Executive, Lee Sugden, rose from £126,926 in 2015, to £160,610 in 2016 – a whopping £33,684 pay increase.
"I feel that we've been sold a pup" said the Canon Green resident, with agreement from the rest of the group "It's like post truth – we've been told one thing and then that we're not going to get it. I think that if most people had known at that time it might have influenced how they voted.
"I feel let down" they added "I feel as if I've been duped and am now left with uncertainty. I don't know what they intend to do..."
The Salford Star contacted Salix Homes and asked the following questions...
1) There was a full survey done of all properties Salix were to take over from the Council a few years ago – why didn't the obvious problems at Canon Green show up in this? Was Salix, as the ALMO, not aware of damp flats etc?
2) We understand that the building of around 100 new units has been mentioned, with a certain amount for market sale/private rent – could you confirm this please? Is the blocks' location near the Manchester town centre a factor in this?
3) Salix states in its letter to residents that there is a shortfall of £1.8m to support the improvements to the block but your latest accounts show a £70m loan facility still available and a £37m reserve. Why isn't the extra funding coming from these sources?
4) Residents we have spoken to feel totally let down by Salix – in that they voted in favour of the transfer of homes to Salix believing that the company had finances in places to bring their homes up to a decent standard. Now they are saying that, basically, Salix lied to them. Would you like to comment on this?
Salix homes never even acknowledged the email and didn't respond...
See also previous Salford Star article: Salford Council Follows Tory Housing Policy on Stock Transfer - click here
Update: 12th April: Disabled Person Living Hell at Canon Green Court - click here