Tenants unite to fight housing association merger
Bid to create giant new housing association raises fears of rent rises and higher service charges
25 August, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Protesters to the merger
A TENANT fightback has been launched after two of London’s biggest housing associations announced plans for a monster merger. Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing Association – which run hundreds of homes in Camden and tens of thousands more across London and the South-east – have asked residents for views on the proposed new organisation.
Residents, who demonstrated outside the companies’ headquarters this week, have sent a formal letter opposing the move to create “Notting Hill Genesis”.
Organiser Denis Quilligan, a long-term West Hampstead resident, fears the merger could pave the way for higher rents and service charges. “Of course there are a lot of empty claims about what this is about – making efficiencies and building affordable homes etc – when actually this is about housing associations wanting to become companies,” he said. “Look at the language of the merger. They talk about us as customers. It is absurd.”
Mr Quilligan said the size of the two housing associations, which have over the years swallowed up smaller housing associations, meant that it was harder for residents to make their voices heard. Despite this, he and residents from other housing associations are mobilising in a bid to “engage all the tenants”. They have set up a website, been out leafleting and staged a meeting attended by more than 100 people this week.
Notting Hill Housing was founded by the Rev Bruce Kenrick, who was “shocked by social and financial inequalities” in Notting Hill in 1962. The forerunner of Genesis, Paddington Churches Housing Association, had two vicars among its seven founding members. Its stated aim was “to provide homes at low rent for needy Paddington families”.
A statement from the two housing associations said: “As a new organisation together, we will have the financial strength to invest in our social purpose, to build quality, affordable homes in thriving communities, to provide modern and valued services, and to create amazing places. We believe there are good reasons to form a partnership for the benefit of our customers.” The statement added: “For customers, the partnership will provide opportunities to raise standards, do more and increase value for money. We will prioritise being the best digital provider of housing services by modernising and automating services to offer customers more choice and make it easier for interaction with us.”