Today, Salford Council issued a press release, picked up and cut and pasted by many media outlets, about how it aims to "build the first council houses in the city for a generation" and help solve the affordable housing crisis.
The release cites an 'affordable housing programme report', showing that "28 people are bidding for every property that becomes available", and that 461 affordable properties were made available in the last year, although "the city still needs 760 new affordable homes each year to meet need".
It then goes on to gush about its new housing company, Derive, which, it states, is going to provide almost one thousand houses over the next three years.
First up, these won't be the "first council houses in the city for a generation"...in 2011 an £8.18million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) saw 101 council houses built in Weaste and Seedley, Little Hulton, Walkden, Irwell Riverside and Winton.
Secondly, Salford Council was involved in the controversial Pathfinder project which saw hundreds and hundreds of 'affordable' houses compulsorily purchased and bulldozed over a decade in places like Higher Broughton, Lower Broughton, Lower Kersal and Charlestown, Langworthy and Seedley.
The new houses that replaced them were made up of swathes of unaffordable properties, with contracts and subsidies handed to private contractors. For instance, in Higher Broughton, pre-regeneration, there were around four hundred affordable terrace houses in the community. Post-regeneration there were 25 affordable houses left, with new houses costing up to £240,000 in the re-named Kings Square development (see here).
In Lower Broughton, 100% of houses were classed as affordable. By the end of the 'regeneration', 64% of the new houses were for market sale or rent ie unaffordable.
As the Salford Star has pointed out too many times, the Lower Broughton developer, Countryside Properties, stated on its relationship with Salford Council that "It was a key aspiration of the Development Agreement to significantly reduce the proportion of affordable housing"...
The local Broughton councillor and Council Leader at the time was John Merry, now Deputy Mayor, who in today's press release sighs "There is no magic wand that can solve what is a national housing crisis overnight, but in Salford we are forging ahead with a clear strategy to deliver for the people of our city..."
...As opposed to the 'clear strategy' to get rid of as much affordable housing as possible with his previous 'magic wand'. Perhaps he could explain the former 'strategy' to those 28 people currently bidding for each affordable property.
John Merry adds that "Last year, we saw 336 new builds and 125 existing empty properties brought back into use as affordable homes". While there is no published list of where these new affordable new builds are, some were in Weaste and some were certainly in Pendleton, where 885 affordable properties were down for demolition, to be replaced with only five hundred affordable homes, out of 1,500, to be built.
It's called 'social cleansing', or as Salford Council's business case to the Government stated, its 'Pendleton Together' plans "will lead to a dilution in the current concentration of economically inactive households" by "young professionals and individuals who wish to live in Pendleton".
A Council report showed only ten remaining residents on the Athole Street estate, out of 76 originally living there, were destined to move to the new houses. And at the High Street Estate at the back of Salford Precinct, in the latest phase of 'regeneration' 149 social properties have been handed 'decant notices' while just 52 so-called affordable houses will be built to replace them.
Meanwhile, with Salford Council almost bribing tenants with the promise of new kitchens and decent homes, virtually all houses in public ownership were privatised, via Salix Homes and City West Housing, both of which are now looking to private rents and sales to make ends meet.
The last five years have seen building activity mushroom in the city...but, thanks to developer-friendly policies of Salford Council which has allowed Section 106 payment avoidance on an industrial scale, the Star has estimated that well over one thousand affordable properties have been lost to the city, on top of around £50million in planning fees (see here and see here and see here).
The Council has now admitted that it got it all horribly wrong..."In response to changing levels of viability" it stated "...it is anticipated that there will increasingly be the potential to deliver affordable housing as part of such schemes". The new policy doesn't come into force until 2019!
Now, to compensate for all these massive mistakes and blatant injustices, Salford Council has set up its 'wholly owned subsidiary', Derive, which, states John Merry in today's press release, will be buying "existing homes off the shelf...and then we will be buying and building more in the future...to meet the housing needs of people in Salford".
Where is the accountability in all this? Virtually all of those who either formed the previous 'social cleansing' policies or went along with it without saying a word, including Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, are still there, drawing allowances and changing track for political expediency.
John Merry added in today's statement that the Council will be using the £2million crumbs it did get from developers in Section 106 payments to 'kick-start' Derive, with "other funds from the council and self-financing the affordable housing by selling some of the houses and letting others at market rents".
First up, the £2million had already been announced a year ago, spun as part of a new £3million 'anti-poverty fund', even though it would probably have already been ring fenced for affordable housing. Secondly, £2million would buy only around thirty houses 'off the shelf' – as opposed to the 1,000+ lost via developer avoidance and Council policies.
John Merry goes on to say in the press release that "Derive is already involved in projects to deliver around 900 affordable homes by 2021 using our strong partnerships with our local housing associations..." before adding a few paras later that "A business plan for the new company is expected to be approved in March"...
So, Derive (which, incidentally, still has the late Paul Longshaw down as a director, along with John Merry), is "already involved in projects", before its business plan has been approved by any Council committee or scrutiny board? This is public money they are playing with. How wrong is that?
The whole press release is based on a Salford Council report on its 'affordable housing programme'...but where is this report so that journalists and council tax payers can check it? It has not been published for public consumption.
Up until recently, the Council's 'affordable housing programme' was published with intimate details of schemes, facts and figures. Now, in keeping with the new transparency-bypass regime at the Council, it's all kept secret. Information is only given out with the Council spin as the angle...
...And the failures that have led to the current housing crisis in Salford are swept under the carpet...
It's not what they tell you but what they don't tell you...
To read the Salford Council press release click here
See also Salford Council Wins Corbynista Council of the Year Award - click here