Landlord Latest: Salix Homes


Salix Homes is a housing association based in Salford, Greater Manchester, providing social and affordable homes and housing services

Salix Homes own and manage over 8,000 homes, which comprises a real mix of properties including tower blocks and large housing estates, as well as independent living schemes for the over 55s. We’re a not-for-profit charitable organisation, which means we invest any profits straight back into our homes and communities.

Recently we’ve launched our new Values – “Trustworthy, Successful and Inclusive” – which are weaved into the fabric of our organisation and the services we deliver.

Last year saw us implement a new operating model, making changes to the way we work so we can give our tenants better access to support and services. We’re getting back to our roots and refocusing on our core values to provide good quality homes and services, and getting to know our residents and their homes better, so we can better meet their needs.

Sustainability is a key focus for all housing sectors currently and we’re improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings, which will benefit our tenants and the environment. Improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock helps in the fight against climate change, but also brings real benefits to low-income households who are experiencing fuel poverty.

The Government has set a target that all social housing should have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of a ‘C’ rating by 2030, while we have committed to becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2038.

Of course, the housing crisis and the lack of truly affordable homes remains a huge issue, on a national scale, so building new affordable and social housing is a key priority. We even have our own affordable home ownership brand – Willo Homes, supporting our ambitions to increase housing choice and deliver more affordable housing opportunities.

While Salford has experienced something of a housing development boom in recent years, the shortage of affordable homes in this area is well documented. As a social housing provider, with our foundations firmly rooted in Salford, we want to deliver the right type of housing in the right places, and we’re aiming to deliver 100 new homes every year.

Tenant Wellbeing & Engagement

Our tenants are at the heart of everything we do at Salix Homes. We’re passionate about ensuring their voices are heard and providing opportunities for them to help shape and improve our services.

When it comes to tenant engagement, we’ve received national recognition for the work we’ve been doing and were one of the first housing associations to introduce a modern approach to scrutiny and customer engagement with our Customer Committee, which was launched in 2020.

The Salix Homes Customer Committee is made up of 12 tenants, who are remunerated for their skills, time and insight, on a par with our Board members. They’re a Committee of our Board, responsible for ensuring we’re delivering on the consumer standards, achieving value for money, and holding us to account.

We also have a number of resident groups who focus on key areas of the organisation and give us suggestions and feedback to help us make improvements. We’ve recently been carrying out a review of our Repairs Service and we held tenant focus groups with their comments and feedback feeding directly into the new proposals for the service.

At Salix Homes we’re always looking for new opportunities to increase tenants engagement and support our residents’ wellbeing. With the cost-of-living crisis, times are incredibly tough for many people, and we see first-hand the effects this is having on people’s health and wellbeing. We’re increasing the support we provide to residents, and we’ve doubled our Customer Support Fund, which provides emergency hardship grants.

We’re also continuing to work closely with our partners to support our residents, whether it’s helping people into work, providing advice on benefits and money management, or investing in grass roots projects through our community grant schemes, we aim to do all we can to help our tenants and communities.

Major Projects

Salix Homes works hard to ensure our properties are safe, modern, desirable and energy efficient, and we continually invest in our tenants homes and communities through an ongoing programme of improvement work.

We’re building new homes in Salford, which includes social and affordable housing, and we have two new-build developments that will complete this year – Neighbourhood and Greenhaus.

Neighbourhood is a 157-home development, which is being built on brownfield land that has stood vacant for more than a decade. In total, 91 of the properties at Neighbourhood will be social housing, affordable rent or shared ownership, and we’re also working closely with Salford City Council, which is purchasing 25 of these properties for social rent.

Greenhaus is a ground-breaking 96-home eco-apartment block, which is being built to Passivhaus standards, which is the gold standard for energy efficient buildings and construction. Passivhaus certified properties enjoy reduced energy consumption of around 90% compared to traditional housing stock, helping residents to reduce their fuel bills while cutting carbon footprints.

It’s being delivered in partnership with the English Cities Fund (ECF) – a joint venture between nationwide placemaker Muse, Legal & General and Homes England, to bring together the public and private sector to transform urban areas.

As part of this partnership, we’re also due to start work soon on a second Passivhaus development – Willohaus, which will deliver another 100 affordable eco-apartments in Salford.

Both Greenhaus and Willohaus represent a new era of new-build, affordable and eco-friendly homes that will be fit-for-the-future and contribute towards the battle against climate change, while helping to tackle the housing crisis.

In addition to building new homes, we‘re also continuing to invest in our existing housing stock and developing an enhanced Salix Homes property standard, in line with the Government’s Decent Homes standard, to ensure our homes are high quality, safer, cleaner and greener.

A multi-million pound eco-transformation at two of our high rise blocks – Grey Friar and White Friar Court – is underway, which includes external wall and roof insulation to improve the thermal efficiency of the building. We’re fitting new windows and ventilation; the facade and balconies will be completely rendered and transformed, and we’re also installing a ground source heating system.

This significant investment project, which is being partially funded from the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), will give a new lease of life to these ageing 1960s tower blocks, transforming the properties into desirable, modern homes which are more comfortable and economical to run, while helping to meet our carbon neutral ambitions.

Building safety remains a key part of our investment programme. Salix Homes has been a trailblazer for building safety, and last year we became one of the first housing associations to achieve Building a Safer Future Charter Champion Status.

Building Safety is a continuous journey, and with the new Building Safety Regulator now established, and new duties and safety standards, we continue to invest in and improve the safety of all our buildings, which over the coming years includes sprinklers being fitted in all our high-rise blocks.

The Social Housing Act

The Social Housing Act and the new Consumer Standards are paving the way for huge changes across the social housing sector.

Ultimately, the reforms aim to deliver safer, higher quality homes and stronger landlord/tenant relationships, where residents’ voices are heard and listened to. As a social housing provider, these things should always be our core purpose, and we welcome the reforms.

Changes can’t happen overnight, and we’ve been evolving and adapting for many years now. Certainly, since the Grenfell tragedy, we’ve been committed to do everything in our power to ensure our buildings and our residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes, and we’ve made great strides on this front, however, we’ll continue to learn and grow to ensure all our buildings are safe places to live, both now and in the future.

The Awaab’s Law amendment is a crucial part of the reforms and tackling hazards in our properties is an absolute critical priority for Salix Homes. We take the condition of our homes very seriously and we are committed to making sure all our tenants have a healthy and safe home, and crucially that they’re listened to if they do raise a concern with us.

There is of course a lot of work still to do ahead of the regulatory changes, but we’re working hard to prepare for the new regulation and improve our services for tenants. We’re getting to know our residents and their homes better, we’re improving and analysing our tenant and property data, and we’re better equipping our workforce to deliver our services and meaningfully engage with residents.

Tenant Portal

Salix Homes tenants are able to manage their tenancy online using our ‘MySalix Customer Portal’, which includes reporting repairs and maintenance issues. They can simply book a repair on the portal, schedule a time to suit them, and track the engineer, so they’ll know who’s going to arrive and when.

We’re currently exploring a new solution to enhance the diagnostic effectiveness of the MySalix portal, to further streamline and improve our repairs service. We’re also looking at introducing a remote inspection and surveying tool, whereby we can use live-video technology to assess and survey repairs and maintenance jobs as part of the initial assessment. It’s something that we initially trialled during the Covid-19 pandemic when there were restrictions around visiting people’s homes, but we’re now looking to implement this technology to further speed-up and enhance the service.

We are committed to using a data driven approach to the management of our assets, and last year, we secured funding from the Social Housing Quality Fund (SHQF) to install Switchee smart thermostats in more than 2,300 properties across Salford, which act as an early warning indicator to let us know if a property is at risk of damp, mould or condensation.

The Switchee devices measure the temperature, airflow and humidity, and if they detect an issue, for example a property being consistently below 18°C, they send us a warning signal directly. We can arrange an inspection to determine if any further action is required and they can also detect any faults with the boiler, so we can take action if we need to.

Key Objectives

Last year, we launched our latest corporate plan, “Our Sustainable Future 2023-25”, setting out our key objectives for the next two years. We’re aiming to get back to our roots and refocus on our core values to provide good quality homes and services. The plan focuses on three key areas, which are:

Sustainable Homes: We aim to provide high quality homes for our residents, making sure they are safe, affordable and energy efficient. We’re aiming to introduce our new home quality standard, maintain 100% home safety compliance, increase satisfaction with our repairs service, ensure we have a data-driven approach to the management of our assets, and build 300 new homes by 2025.

Sustainable Business: The focus for our business is to be fit for today and prepared for tomorrow, making sure we remain efficient and well-governed, and we’ve recently retained our G1/V2 Regulatory Status. We’re also focusing on developing a more modern employee offer and delivering an inclusive and supportive working environment.

Sustainable Communities: We are committed to providing first class services and investing in our customer service channels to ensure we are meeting and exceeding our tenants’ expectations.  We’re reviewing and developing our approach to customer service, including tenant communications and accessibility, in a bid to increase residents’ satisfaction. We’re also continuing to develop our tenant engagement arrangements to ensure a strong and influential resident voice, as well as increase the social value of our work in communities.

Article supplied by Sue Sutton, chief executive of Salix Homes