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A TOUR THROUGH SALFORD COUNCIL SPIN ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING
 

Star date: 10th January 2018

IT'S NOT WHAT THEY TELL YOU, IT'S WHAT THEY DON'T TELL YOU

Today, Salford City Council issued a press release outlining its plans to "build the first council houses in the city for a generation" and how its new housing company, Derive, "is already involved in projects to deliver around 900 affordable homes by 2021".

Here, the Salford Star goes through the spin and discovers that it's not what they tell you but what they don't tell you...

Full details here...


Salford Council Affordable Housing History Salford Council Affordable Housing History Salford Council Affordable Housing History
Salford Council Affordable Housing History
click image to enlarge

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

wrote
at 08:23:09 on 16 January 2018
What was Merry doing when the 420 affordable houses in Higgher Broughton were under threat from the pathfinder scheme? He was in favour of demolishing the propeties while stringing along residents in the top streets for 6 years, leading them on that their homes were going to be saved and renovated. Then it was "not viable" and there was much talk of renovating some of the houses. Merry kept this talking this up,claiming to be working with residents, until in 2009 the bombshell that the proposed renovation were not going ahead and that they would have to vacate their properties within months. Firstly the council had people falling over themselves to get one of the 19 prefab houses built in Vincent Street, to replace the 170 they had demolished. Then they had people keeping their mouths shut and not rocking the boat for fear of missing out on one of the proposed renovated houses. I am sure that similar things happed in Lower Broughton, Langworthy and Kersal. The residents in these areas were Socially Cleansed and ripped off, to subsidise the developers and builders that profit from these schemes. Remember that when it is time to vote.

Felsey wrote
at 13:55:33 on 13 January 2018
Adding to Bob's comment I believe Salford Council could have increased social housing by 2billion. Selling off assets owned on our citizens behalf raising up to 400million could have been then match funded by pension and investor funds. Enough to build at least 30,000 social homes at 130,000 each. Everyone on their housing waiting list getting a new home within the last 6 years. Plus 10,000 young local people getting to start married life in a new home and 5,000 single people getting a social home to call home. In this model new Council Tax into Salford Council is an increase of 30million each year. Able to ensure social care. I know from my life of experience there are always options. Fact is Salford Labour does not share my practical people-power vision. Very sorry I did not make Mayor to build proud Salford. Michael.

Bob the regular wrote
at 08:30:43 on 13 January 2018
They have had plenty of cash for affordable housing in the past. Lots of affordable housing was built. Good housing but they allowed it to go to rack and ruin within 30 to 40 years, all over Salford. Would anyone trust any of these idiots with money for housing? Everyone knows that investing in property is a sure fire way to make money. Tell you what, lets use the Greater Manchester public employees pension fund to invest in such a good investment of public affordable housing. whilst were on about housing, perhaps these people can tell us how much it costs to build a 3 bed semi and who gets the cash. How much does the bricky get.I know. How much do the bricks cost? I know. And all the rest. Last time I heard it was 120 per sq foot. Where does the cash go. We don't get it they all say.Lets cut all the bullshit, let the workers build their own houses.Once upon a time they did. Look at all the trendy old cottages around a lot of farms in Wales. These were not built mainly by masons, but by farm lads, thats why the walls are a bit wobbly. Look at the ceiling beams, bits of old ships mast, round. I tell you,give the people their own land, and let them get on with the job themselves. Its not hard to do

wrote
at 12:56:22 on 12 January 2018
Labour the answer to our problems v Felsey the cause of our problems. Kick Felsey out of Salford = Problems sorted. OKipper not UKipper.

Bobknows wrote
at 07:49:58 on 12 January 2018
Remember folks Labour are the answer to our problems. i mean look at Salford, 40+ years of Labour making absolutely sound decisions. Who needs affordable housing when they've got an empty white elephant stadium to go to? Yet we'll still elect the labour monies

I ronnie wrote
at 20:15:33 on 11 January 2018
And Felse does not see the irony of him living in an apartment on the quatys, which started all the demolitions, regeneration projects and apartment building in Salford???

Michael James Felse wrote
at 19:19:06 on 11 January 2018
Let us face facts. It was wrong to take out thousands of Salford traditional houses. Local people abused into having their family home destroyed for what. A City of appartments, unaffordable rents, destroyed communities and changes to housing waiting lists in favour of inward migration. In 20 years I have seen the heart ripped out of communities. I welcome Nigel Farage today calling for a second referendum to give the ruling MPs a clear message that Brexit means Brexit and a time for local people to be put first for once in very long time.

Bob (the regular contributor Bob) wrote
at 07:22:10 on 11 January 2018
I beg to differ Bob.These arms length housing organisations are still the Council. Half the directors are councilors. Salford council still call the shots. The whole lot of them are the same. A lot of the trades people I know look back and think how great it was when they were at "the council". apparently they "have to do a bit of work now", and they do not like this. Like bob says , I also know people who do not get jobs done. But if the workers are having to do more work, should this not mean more jobs get done? when will people learn.

bob wrote
at 20:05:32 on 10 January 2018
I know people in both City West and Salix who would love to go back under Council Control. Both these associations pushed up rent beyond what people could afford and tenants left and properties were give to foreign people. Just look at Salford precint for a prime example. People would love to go back to the old council style. Both City west and Salix are renowned for taking up to a year to do a simple repair. My friend waited 18 months for a new front door.

Gareth L wrote
at 20:05:14 on 10 January 2018
Great article Stephen. I bet htese new houses are smaller and less well built than the ones knocked down!

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