Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing Association: Far from an ideal union¬†ÔĽŅ

Tomorrow, on the 16th of January 2018,   shareholders of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing Association will vote on whether to merge these two housing giants   together and form a supersize housing association.

This for several reasons as we will explain, will put social housing in London at risk, will give their existing residents fewer rights and will leave many  in parts  of London like our local area subject to unaffordable rent increases and leasehold charges and the changes in moving to a more corporate structure will threaten the existence of  housing co-operatives, the trust between staff and residents, the wellbeing of vulnerable residents and will  further remove these once-charitable organisations away from their original purposes Р from which they have been already straying  Рnamely providing social and genuinely affordable decent homes  to many in urban areas of London.

THE “BRIDE”: We at THINK are familiar with Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill Housing and designated chief executive of the proposed merged association ¬†(pictured above). See our previous posts here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/notting-hill-housing-and-genesis-residents-say-no-to-the-merger/

And here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/ūüéÉthink-halloween-specialūüéÉ-part-1-notting-hill-housings-kate-davies-the-wicked-witch-of-the-west/

And also our post about Notting Hill Housing moving away from its’ once charitable and decent housing aims here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/notting-hill-housing-where-has-the-trust-gone/

Back in 2008 “Wicked Witch” Davies wrote a report for ¬†right wing Tory Iain Duncan Smith’s ¬†misnomer of a think tank The Centre for Social Justice, claiming that ¬†“tenants pay little or no rent and get their home maintained in good order for free” She ¬†has also stated ¬†in an article for the Times that ¬†“social housing is not a desired destination” and that “private ownership is preferable to ¬†state-provided solutions” .

We suppose at least she does not hide her desired intent to what she intends to do with NHH’s housing stock – but we point out that in areas of London like ours, you have to be wealthy to buy a property – just where does she expect people to live?

Davies and her partner Nick Johnson also run a company called Davies Johnson Ltd that advised on, wait for it, the disastrous redevelopment of Earl’s Court!

Notting Hill Housing’s website has claimed that residents views on the proposed merger are ¬†welcome, but that is not what ther residents have told us.

Yes, meetings about the merger were limited to ticket holders only, even had bouncers manning the doors, and yet still many concerned residents who managed to get hold of tickets were denied entry.

After residents have received that sort of treatment and seen evidence of social cleansing and selling off housing stock in areas like ours and have suffered huge rent and service charge increases under Davies’ rule, is it any wonder that they do not for one minute believe the claims on the NHH website that “no one will be worse off due to our proposed merger”.

THE “GROOM”: Meet Dipesh Shah, he is the chair of Genesis Housing ¬†Association and set ¬†to ¬†be the ¬†“chair designate” of the merged association if it goes ahead. He may only pocket around ¬£9,000 for his position, but as a multimillionaire director of several wealth management funds, and as a former CEO of BP and the UK Atomic Energy Authority among other things (we actually lost count of his past and present directorships!) and rumoured to be earning over ¬£4million a year; he really doesn’t need the money!


“Deep Pockets” Shah (pictured above) has the nerve to defend Genesis’ exorbitant rent increases to residents who cannot afford them. He like NHH’s Kate Davies is also a supporter of converting their ¬† existing social housing to so-called “affordable housing” (up to 80% of market rate).

According to him, the funds raised from this are supposed to help Genesis build more homes but according to Genesis Residents, the association has only built just  three social homes in the last two years!

“Deep Pockets” has also treated residents who complain about ¬†the association’s poor maintenance of their properties with dismissal. He claims to be “unaware” of any failures.

Maybe “Wicked Witch of the West” Kate Davies can show him our blog? Because here, for this gruesome twosome ¬†are just a handful of ¬†serious complaints from residents of Genesis that we found posted on Twitter

“IF ANY OF YOU HAS REASONS WHY THESE TWO SHOULD NOT BE MARRIED, SPEAK NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE” : Let’s take a deep breath here, how many reasons have THINK got? The threat to many of their residents in areas like ours where land value is high, the corporate structure putting ever more distance between management ¬†and residents, likely rent increases and service charges that residents will face as the organisation becomes even more profit-driven, the cuts to good local staff ¬†working at both ¬†organisations, the threat to council housing in London that this merger would bring, ¬†and the ¬†general immorality of charging excess costs to their residents to pay for newly built homes they will never be able to afford?

But don’t just take our word for it, see this ¬†letter posted on ¬†the Grenfell Action Group from Robin Sharp, a founder member of Genesis and first chair of PCHA ¬† here:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/genesis-founder-condemns-merger/

THE “ICING ON THE WEDDING CAKE”

THINK ask shareholders to not be tempted into being seduced by the sugary sweet enticements of huge profits by the corporatisation of both associations. We ask that you put people and communities  first and vote with your conscience.

Also we have good grounds to believe the merger process may be legally flawed. Please read this excellent post from the Grenfell Action Group here:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/notting-hill-genesis-merger-legally-flawed/

THE “WEDDING CRASHERS”:

We thank the knowledgable, tireless and hardworking campaign groups from both associations who campaign against the merger, against social cleansing and  for better treatment and standards in their housing.

See  the Listen NHH  website here:

https://listen-nhh.org/

And Genesis Residents website here:

http://genesisresidents.org.uk/

The VENUES: “GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME”:

We urge shareholders of both NHH and Genesis to please vote NO. A vote against the merger is a vote to save not only social housing in London but also the  social face and layout of many areas of London and the South East   which are  under threat from this indecent proposal of a merger.

The peaceful protest against the merger will be at 5:15pm ¬†for Notting Hill Housing and the shareholders’ meeting and ¬†vote for NHH at Sussex Place, Hammersmith, London W6 9EA.

The  other  peaceful protest  against the merger for   Genesis  and the shareholders meeting and vote  will also be at 5:15 tomorrow at Atelier House, 64 Pratt Street, London NW1 ODL

THINK will of course be joining the protests  and showing our support against the merger and we recommend you do too. Here, posted by Grenfell Speaks on Twitter, are residents and campaigners  Natasha and Gemini:


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 and Genesis: Residents say no to the merger!

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This is Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Notting Hill Housing.

In our previous blog post, we highlighted how Notting Hill Housing (along with some other housing associations) in their housing policies  have moved far away from the charitable organisations that they were initially set up to be.

It has been brought to our attention by many residents of both Notting Hill Housing and Genesis that the planned merger will lead to more social cleansing carried out with the likely outcome of their properties in or near our (highly priced) area of London sold off to generate more revenue, as well as tenants and leaseholders facing exorbitant rent hikes.

As for Genesis, they are another housing association that has formed out of mergers of Paddington Churches Housing Association (PCHA),  Pathmeads and Springboard housing associations.

Genesis, like NHH, are also partners in several social cleansing projects in other parts of London, such as Grahame Park in Colindale, northwest London, Woodberry Down in Manor House, north London and Oaklands (part of the Old Oak regeneration project) which is only a couple of miles from us in west London. All of these projects have or will have less social housing provided than before.

Some have seen Notting Hill Housing (NHH) ¬†and Genesis properties locally being sold off, rather than offered as social housing. Yes NHH ¬†claim ¬†that they need to generate revenue – but we¬†have pointed out before that together, NHH and Genesis are sitting on ¬£3billion in reserves (which makes The Rotten Borough of Kensington. And Chelsea’s ¬£274million look like peanuts in comparison).

We do not trust these organisations, those in charge of them or their motives for going ahead with this merger and neither do many of their residents. Indeed  the future  aims of these two big beasts of housing association appear to be  increasingly raking in huge profits from sales and rents of unaffordable properties rather than providing social and genuinely affordable housing Рa stark contrast to their humble beginnings and the charitable aims of the original founders.

THINK agree with the residents that bigger is not better when it comes to housing associations. Readers of our previous post can hear about how NHH has lost touch with its charitable roots and has turned into more of a profit-making corporate giant, out of touch with the views and wellbeing of many of its residents and more concerned with flogging off its more expensive properties and ¬†awarding executives fat cat salaries. This situation will only worsen if the merger goes ahead, particularly as Genesis may not be in such great financial shape – rated negative by independent credit rating Moody’s

There is a meeting for NHH and Genesis residents on Saturday 28th October at the Church of St Mary, St Mary’s Square, London W2 at 1pm.

We urge all concerned residents of both these housing associations to vote against the merger and to go there and make your voices heard.

See the Listen NHH website here:

https://listen-nhh.org/

See the Genesis Residents website here:

http://genesisresidents.org.uk/

 

There is also a “NO to the NHH/Genesis merger” protest at The Homes Conference ¬†at Olympia, Hammersmith Rd, London W14 onWednesday 22nd November between 8:30am-11am. Some THINKers will be there and we recommend that everyone ¬†who cares about our community and the ¬†future provision of housing for all to join us!

We’ll leave you with some videos of NHH and Genesis residents and supporters protesting :

 

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…….