In the wake of an Observer/Guardian article on Sunday, 25 March, strongly attacking the sale of social housing, residents of Genesis and Notting Hill and housing associations activists from across London picketed the auction of social rent homes at Savills on Monday 26 March. [See Observer link below]
The auctioning of social homes is depriving the country of vital social housing. despite the fact that hidden away in emergency B&B’s, temporary bedsits and on friends’ sofas are hundreds of thousands of homeless people, including families with children. The people deserve better than this.
We estimate that at least 19 Genesis social homes went under the hammer in a previous sale, in February.
Some auction-goers ignored us rudely, some politely and some stopped to listen and talk.
CEO of Genesis Neil Hadden defended his policy of selling social homes in an article in Inside Housing a few days later. He claimed:
“Whenever a property becomes available, it is assessed against a complex series of parameters, so we can determine whether it can be re-let, or if it would be better to sell it….We use a financial model that takes into account a newly void property’s rental income, average maintenance costs and the need for future investment..”
There is just one little problem with what Neil Hadden was claiming – it is very far from the truth.
In 2015 he famously said of voids that:
“Every void property will be looked at to see whether we should switch its tenure or whether we should sell it…..We are in a very fortunate position working in the areas we do, where property values are very expensive. We can put millions of pounds into the business and recycle that and build more homes” (Our emphasis).
Social housing? How much can we sell it for? That is Neil Hadden’s point of view.
Genesis has admitted that its development pipeline contains 94% out of reach housing and only 6% of social housing.
Hadden is selling these social homes to fund the building of new, out-of-reach homes that social renters will never be able to afford. It is nothing to do with any “complex series of parameters.”
So is Genesis lying to Moodys or shareholders and residents?
If any more proof were needed, it can be found in Moody’s assessment of Genesis Housing Association, which came out in November 2017:
‘In order to fund the growth and minimise the need for additional borrowing, Genesis will average 150 fixed asset sales per year over the next five years, as its properties become void.’
If they have to assess each empty social home “against a complex series of parameters,” how can Genesis know in advance they will have 150 social homes to sell each year? The answer? Because they don’t assess anything – except how much cash they can get.
This is confirmed by our new multi-millionaire chair in a letter to Genesis Residents on May 2017. We had asked that sales and ‘conversions’ be stopped:
“Both of the approaches you refer to address housing by creating additional funds to enable us to build more homes. That is what we do. We are a housing association and build and maintain houses for people. Disposal of voids that are no longer required due to market conditions or other factors helps finance that objective.” (Our emphasis).
What ‘market conditions?’ The fact that there are more than 8,100 rough sleepers in London?* That working people are being forced to rent rabbit hutch rooms for well over £2,000 a month? So goodbye social housing, and hello “market conditions.”
This social enterprise has been hijacked by the suits, creating a commercial volume house builder without ethics or values.
Thank you Philllip Wolmuth the well-known photojournalist (www.philipwolmuth.com) for allowing us to use the photo for this post. Phil is doing a project on the ‘London Clearances’ concentrating on the clearance of social housing in London. It is well worth looking at: