Notting Hill Housing and Genesis: Unhappily ever after

On Tuesday the 16th of January, shareholders of both Genesis Housing Association and Notting Hill Housing will be voting on whether to merge into one giant organisation.

Collectively, if the vote goes through, they will be responsible for  the housing  of around 170,000 residents.

THINK has long been  concerned about the issue of housing associations straying a very long away from their roots back  when they initially started out as charitable organisations Рsocial landlords, providing many   with decent housing in the local community.

We share the concerns of many residents of both associations ¬†have raised, from rent increases that many, particularly those housed by Genesis Housing Association, are facing in high land value areas, particularly in London, to the move instead to provide “affordable” housing rather ¬†than housing at social rent level ( a long way from the original aims of both associations) , and the moves into property development and regeneration.

Yes these organisations have been chronically underfunded by successive governments and from the outset are increasingly in need of funds, but THINK believe that turning into socially cleansing property developers for the wealthy is not the way forward.

We had a  closer look at  just a few of the rules of Genesis Housing   Association based on the model rules from 2005:

“The Association is formed for the benefit of the community, its objects shall be to carry on for the benefit of the community”

And this: “This association shall not trade for profit”

We believe that this merger amounts to a marriage of convenience  Рconvenient for those in charge to rip up their own rule books and shrug off the responsibilities they were originally designated to have and go chasing vast profits at the real cost of not only their existing residents, but also to many other ordinary residents of London and the South East who are already struggling  to afford a home.

Many have noticed appearances in recent years executives on the boards of both associations who may have some very questionable motives as to their positions on social housing.

Take Richard Powell ¬†for example, who joined NHH last year. He previously worked as a “director of urban communities” at Lendlease. Yes – the Australian based global property development responsible for the demolition of the Heygate Estate in Walworth, South London and also for the proposed HDV regeneration ¬†plans in Haringey council, North London.

See the Stop HDV campaign website here:

http://stophdv.com/

For those not in the know, Haringey planned a 50/50 public private partnership with the company to the tune of ¬£2billion ¬†that would be likely to see most of their residents in the less affluent areas of the borough, lose their homes. Lendlease has also been ¬†in partnership with US president Donald Trump – yes Trump Towers! It almost sounds laughable but we really don’t think that taking a wrecking ball to peoples’ social homes , forcing residents out of London and ¬†replacing their homes ¬†with luxury flats for wealthy “buy-to-leave” investors is really a laughing matter.

If that doesn’t sound worrying enough, Mr Powell also previously worked as a director of planning at Capital and Counties! yes, Capco (or Crapco, as we call them) – responsible for the dreadful mess that is known as the Earl’s Court masterplan.

Have a look at our previous Earl’s Court post here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/think-special-post-from-earls-court-a-new-beginning/

The ¬†Save Earl’s Court campaign ¬†website ¬†here:

http://www.saveearlscourt.com/

And West Ken and Gibbs Green  campaign website here:

https://westkengibbsgreen.wordpress.com/

The demolition of the Earl’s Court exhibition centre ¬†plus greedy Crapco hiking rents ¬† has come at a real cost to some small businesses around the area – so ¬†it is not even merely a concern for residents in social housing either.
And just in case some reading this still  think this is just a matter for housing association residents and not for those housed by their local authority, let us point to the Aylesbury Estate (formerly Southwark council)  Рunder regeneration  by NHH and Grahame Park (formerly Barnet Council)  under regeneration plans by Genesis Рboth with far fewer homes for social rent.

What could the future of the now-disbanding TMO in Kensington and Chelsea possibly be?

RBKC appear to have little idea of what will happen to their housing stock, and we believe that this supersize beast that collectively will sit on reserves of around £3billion may make the council (whose once cushy reserves are now dwindling) a nice (not so little)  offer Рone that will also appeal to the Rotten Borough Tories wanting to expel many of their social housing residents from the borough. We believe that all social housing residents in and around our borough are at very real risk from this proposed merger.

All the ¬†regeneration projects that these two associations ¬†have been involved in have vastly reduced the provision of social housing places, or even worse, The planned development in Canada Water, South ¬†London ¬†(pictured below) will have 1,030 homes – ¬†consisting so-called “affordable” (up to 80% of market rate – actually completely unaffordable to many), homes for private sale, ¬†homes for private market rent and shared ownership (which only is of real benefit to soon-to-be high flyers starting out on the property ladder) and that’s it. No mention of homes for social rent at all.

All will be familiar with the phrase “charity begins at home”: THINK believe that these two organisations need to get back to being charities that provide the less well off with a decent ¬†social housing ; not become developers who do ¬†ordinary people out of ¬†the right to live in decent social housing. This union in our view will move these once ¬†associations ¬† even further from their once commendable and charitable ¬†roots.

We urge all shareholders who haven’t voted yet to vote NO to the merger and all in and around our community to join the protests outside both meetings tomorrow.

NOTTING HILL HOUSING : at 5 15 pm, Tuesday 16th January 2018   at Sussex Place, Hammersmith, London W6 9EA

GENESIS HOUSING: Also at 5:15pn Tuesday 16th January 2018 at Atelier House, 64 Pratt Street, London, NW1 ODL

Notting Hill Housing: where has the “Trust” gone?

 

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This is the Reverend Bruce Kenrick who founded Notting Hill Housing Trust back in the 1960s. He was concerned about poorer families in our local area and the conditions they were living in.

Back then he set up the trust as he was appalled at the living conditions m which the poorest had to exist. Many of the poor in our area back then had little choice but to live in cramped, overcrowded and squalid accommodation. Kenrick wrote that “What struck me painfully was the extent to which people’s problems stemmed from damnable housing conditions. Marriages broke up because one or other partner could no longer stand the strain of living in one room with a stove and sink squeezed in to one corner”.

He started raising funds (at one point in a stall in Portobello Road Market)  to buy up dilapidated properties in the area at auction, renovate them and then  let them out as decent social housding for many in less privileged circumstances.. In 1966 Reverend Kenrick also set up housing charity Shelter.

Sadly Notting Hill Housing, they dropped the “Trust” in recent times – which says a lot – are ¬†like many other housing associations (such as Genesis, Octavia, Affinity Sutton, ¬†Family Mosaic and many more) are now ¬†very ¬†far removed now from what they were originally set up to be.

NHH’s current chief executive is Kate Davies. She takes a salary of around ¬£200,000 a year. She has deceived council estates as “ghettos of needy people” . Oh wait Ms Davies, isn’t it your supposed remit to help house some of those who are in need? But then she has been a “fellow” of Iain Duncan Smith’s right wing think tank, ¬†and we know that IDS ¬†shows very little compassion for the poor.

Steve Hilditch a former NHH board member from 2002-08 resigned over the policies of NHH under Kate Davies. In an article he wrote on the Red Brick blog he says “provision of social rented homes was downgraded in priority, there were moves into making tenancies conditional (e.g. on seeking work) whilst more and more effort went into shared ownership and private development.

Also now there is an emphasis (thanks to policies of certain Tory governments), on “affordable rent” (80% of market rate) – unaffordable to most.

See the excellent Red Brick blog here:

https://redbrickblog.wordpress.com/

Yes shared ownership, one of the focuses of Kate Davies and NHH appears to be something that can work out for young soon to be high flyers who are just starting out in their careers, but for  many others it can be unsuitable. Some can even be trapped in a situation where they are paying roughly the same as they would under a mortgage, are subject to the rules of the housing  association and have no means if other parts of the building are in disrepair (such as a leaky roof for example) , of being able to enforce the housing association to make the  necessary repairs.

And yes, Notting Hill Housing is a partner in many ¬†“regeneration” social cleansing projects ¬†such as Sweets Way, the Aylesbury Estate, as well as selling off its own ¬†empty properties in the market that were intended for social rent.

THINK sadly believe that these orchestrated  sell offs land grabs by investors in which several local authorities and housing associations are involved in not only push the poorest out of their communities, but also contribute to pricing many ordinary Londoners out too.

NHH’s “core strategy of providing housing for those who cannot otherwise afford it”? Well they are selling homes over over ¬£1 million, so we don’t exactly know if any ¬†of the supposed people they are supposed to be helping who can exactly afford that.

So with their focus being on ownership and shared ownership, is it too much to ask where they expect those on lower incomes and those who are unable to work to live?

As it is the minimum housing space for a “flat” is just 32 square metres, so there are very obvious concerns about peoples living conditions returning to those of the days before NHH and other associations were set up. We also happen to know a number of families living in cramped and/or overcrowded living conditions under NHH, which are continually ignored by the association. We believe that NHH have completely forgotten their origins altogether and are now real players in the act of actually bringing back ¬†and perpetuating some of the impoverished living conditions which they were set up to combat in the first place.

As for Notting Hill Housing’s original ¬†founder, Reverend Bruce Kenrick passed away in 2007. THINK do not believe that he would at all approve of ¬†Kate Davies and co wrecking his legacy ¬†of a charitable housing organisation and turning it into something of a corporate beast, moving ¬†away from its roots and ¬†his cause of ¬†providing decent housing to those who cannot afford it and instead concentrating their efforts on social cleansing and selling off properties to the wealthy in more affluent areas at the real expense of those who need it most.

As for charitable efforts, after Grenfell, many in our local community from Grenfell Tower and nearby urgently needed housing as our council has a severe shortage of it. But what did Kate Davies and NHH do ? They ¬†delayed and waited alongside other housing associations (“registered housing providers”) for extra public money from RBKC to ¬†the tune of ¬£40million before offering to house survivors. Read this excellent blog post from the Grenfell Action Group here:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/housing-associations-cash-in-on-grenfell-tragedy/

We believe Reverend Kenrick will be turning in his grave…….