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Tenants and employees set to own properties as housing co-operative looms

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Tenants and employees set to own properties as housing co-operative looms

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

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A Greater Manchester landlord has been given the green light to launch one of the UK's first social housing co-operatives.

Salford City Council has told Salix Homes it can become a ‘mutual’ organisation owned by tenants and employees - if tenants support plans for a proposed stock transfer.

If residents give their blessing, Salix is poised to become one of the first employee co-owned mutual housing providers in the country, which the landlord says will give tenants greater control over the way housing services are provided.

According to Salix, a new mutual would be owned by and accountable to its members, made up of tenants and employees, creating a new form of genuine public ownership with true resident involvement.

Joe Willis, Salix's chief executive, said: “Becoming a mutual is the next natural step for an organisation like Salix Homes, which has been at the forefront of creating opportunities for our tenants to influence how we do things for many years now.

“A new mutual Salix Homes would be based on the longstanding principles of co-operation and mutuality providing a bright future for social housing tenants in Salford who, in partnership with Salix Homes’ employees, will be in charge of the future of their homes. However, this bold vision can only become a reality if tenants vote for transfer.”

The proposals form part of plans to transfer ownership of 8,500 homes from the council to Salix. Due to government changes to how social housing is funded, the council says it does not have access to the money needed to make the necessary improvements and bring the properties up to modern standards.

According to the council, transferring ownership to a new registered housing provider is the only option available if the homes are to get the improvements they need. Salix is promising to invest £700 million in the homes and their communities over the next 30 years if the transfer goes ahead.

Rochdale Borough Housing made history in 2012 when it became the UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual landlord.

Tenant Barbara Harper, who lives in Ordsall and is chair of the Salix Homes Customer Senate, said: “This is a very exciting time for tenants and employees at Salix Homes. Becoming a ‘mutual’ would bring together those that provide services – employees – with those that receive services – residents - as owners of a new type of registered provider of social housing.

“A mutual Salix Homes would be a relationship of equals with employees and tenants working together to help shape the future of housing in Salford, but this exciting opportunity for the people of Salford will not be possible if the homes remain under council ownership, so I would urge tenants to make sure they use their vote.”

A ballot is expected to take place later this year when all Salix tenants will have the chance to vote on whether the transfer goes ahead. If tenants do vote in support of transfer it’s aimed that the transition into a mutual organisation will be complete within two years of the transfer taking place.

Salford’s assistant mayor for housing, councillor Gena Merrett, added: “Becoming a ‘mutual’ would ensure that residents are involved at every level of Salix Homes.

“This vision of staff and tenants working closely together to shape the future for Salix Homes is a hugely exciting prospect, but it is the kind of opportunity that can only become reality if residents vote for the transfer.”

Pictured: Joe Willis, Salix chief executive; tenant Barbara Harper, chair of the Customer Senate; and Peter Styche, chair of the Salix board.

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