Under the leadership of Kate Davies, Notting Hill has championed an immoral ‘affordable’ rent policy (1) which traps NHH residents in impossible rent demands.
Under her management, NHH dumps social homes while bragging about the construction of out-of-reach homes for sale, market rent and unaffordable ‘affordable rent.’
The immoral ‘affordable rent’ regime championed by Kate Davies.
As we go door to door talking to people about the merger, we are hearing more and more accounts of the difficulties facing those residents paying ‘affordable rent’ (about £100 per week more than a normal ‘social housing’ rent’).
We have been told of rents and service charges in recently built properties that are coming in around £1,100 per month or more.
Residents face a bitter choice between paying a rent which is unmanageable, being stuck in the benefit trap or looking for other accommodation.
This situation did not come about by chance.
In the case of NHH, it was, and is, the policy choice of Kate Davies and her Board.
As far as we are aware, residents have never been allowed to vote on, or even discuss this policy.
Her polices were more extreme than Boris Johnson’s
We know that in 2008 Kate Davies nailed her colours to the mast by chairing a now infamous report from Iain Duncan’s Smith’s think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (2). Her report argued that the focus should be on: homes ownership; shorter tenancies; the end of reasonable rent; the sale of existing council social housing; regeneration through increasing density on existing estates.
Also in that year – according to a board member who subsequently resigned – Kate Davies’ policy shifted away from social housing (3).
She actually withdrew a business plan which put too much emphasis on social housing and replaced it with one which emphasised out-of-reach housing and where “the amount of shared ownership was significantly increased and the share of social rent significantly decreased. ..The mix in the programme was proposed to shift from (social rent: intermediate) 70:30 to 40:60, much more extreme than even the policy of the incoming mayor Boris Johnson.” (our emphasis)
£87 per week extra rent for residents as a result of Kate Davies’ policies. A ‘malicious farce?’
Three years after, the Chair’s report in the 2011-20012 financial statement (4) puts the policy in stark terms:
“The new affordable rent regime allows us to charge rents of up to 80% of the market… The higher rents on new properties has been one means of compensating for the reduction in capital grants. “
And the chair explains that, “we are increasing rents on around half of the smaller properties that we relet to secure additional income to meet part of the costs of new homes.” (Our emphasis)
In other words, force people with low income into the benefit trap in order to build out-of-reach homes for sale or for unaffordable rents. This is the policy of Kate Davies.
And in the 2012-2103 financial report (5) the chair gives some more details of what this policy means
“The new rents, called “affordable” rents are considerably more expensive than the older target rent levels. In Notting Hill’s case, the average differential to date is about £87 per week.”
As a Guardian article wrote of affordable rent recently (6):
“The shift of focus…to “affordable housing” has been a malicious farce. Defining “affordable” as 80% of market rate reveals a callous disregard for those losing out in the housing crisis.”
The merger with Genesis and regeneration for the rich, not for ordinary Londoners
Now we have the merger. We hear a lot about how great it will be. The boast is that ‘400 homes’ will be built that would not have been built without the merger (7). Actually if you look at the small print in their investor’s presentation, you will find that this is not until 2024.
But what kind of homes?
The joint Notting HIll/Genesis investors ‘presentation’ on their websites boasts of new regeneration projects including Canada Water where we are told NHH will build 1,030 homes. According to their own presentation, not one of them will be social housing. We are told that there will be 162 ‘affordable’ rent (meaning unaffordable rent), 69 shared ownership, 453 private sale and 346 market rent (8).
The investor’s presentation also boasts of the Aylesbury Project where the net loss of social housing will be huge. We understand, from planning committee minutes, that the social housing loss stands at between 778 to 1,166 depending on which development scenario is pursued (9) And this is before the inevitable ‘paring down’ of social housing which seem to be a feature of these regeneration schemes.
And finally the Graham Park regeneration project by Genesis is lauded. The same project in which the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, actually blocked a phase because it cut social homes by 92%. The mayor called the scheme ‘wholly unacceptable (10).’
‘Social housing’ is not even mentioned in the development pipeline of the presentation. There is a category called ‘Low Cost Rental.’ This category is a legal definition (11) and includes not only social housing but also unaffordable ‘affordable rent.’
So a housing association set up to build social housing does no even mention how much social housing they intend to build in the future?
With policies like this, should Kate Davies be leading a housing association at all? Let alone a mega merged one with 170,000 residents?
(9) Officer’s report 23 April 2015. Planning Committee
(10) http://www.times-series.co.uk/news 15560763.Next_phase_of_regeneration_sees__wholly_unacceptable__loss_in_social_homes__says_London_Mayor/
(11) “Affordable Rent falls within the definition of social housing in section 68 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (and, in particular, the definition of low cost rental accommodation in section 69 of that Act).” House of Commons Library. Briefing Paper Number 05933, 7 May 2015 ‘Affordable Rents (England)’