But they say that the rents will not go up, don’t they?
This is not even true now – let alone in the future
Secure tenants in Genesis are facing huge rent rises – 30% is quite normal and the highest we have heard of is 177%. We understand that residents in a south London Notting Hill estate, which is rented at market rent, are facing an extra £40 per month on their already high rent and service charges – over £1,000 per month.
The new merged organisation will try to push up costs for residents as much as they can.
Why? Because the new merged organisation is turning into a volume house builder and our homes are their asset base which they use as collateral to borrow more money for out-of-reach housing.
The loans have to be paid back with interest; so they need a bigger income stream.
Expect increases in rents, serve charges, maintenance costs etc.
And our tenancies and other legal agreements? Are they safe?
We do not think that tenancies and legal agreements are under threat directly.
However, the drive to build out-of-reach homes with private funds will be a constant threat in a large, more commercial organisation. This will impact on service charges, maintenance costs and rents.
A good examples is the policy of ‘converting’ homes to affordable rent (about £100 more per week than social rent homes) on relet.
Notting Hill converted 1,661 social homes (with much lower rent) to unaffordable ‘affordable rent’ in 6 years (2011 to 2017) of this policy.
As the chair of Notting Hill put it in 2011:
“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.“
So existing social housing is replaced by unaffordable ‘affordable rent.’
Another example: the housing associations chiefs, under their trade association, the National Housing Federation, have been pushing for housing associations to have control of rent-setting powers rather than the government.
This would give a merged organisation much greater power, which on past evidence, they would not use wisely.
But they have promised not to take away our homes, haven’t they?
Again the promise is already being broken.
In Southend, Genesis residents are fighting a battle to save their estate from ‘regeneration’ and ‘densification’ (building many more homes which are usually out-of-reach).
Residents have opposed the plan to ‘regenerate’ the estates in Baxter Avenue/Boston Avenue. But Genesis is pushing ahead.
As far as we know, no ballot is planned for residents to make their views known. Just like the ‘consultation’ on the merger, residents are excluded from the decision-making process completely.
Surely bigger must be better?
The evidence is against them.
Inside Housing, for example, reported (9 June 2016) that there is: ‘No link between large landlords and efficiency.” The article notes:
“The Homes and Communities Agency [ the government agency that regulates housing associations] yesterday published a report examining the differences in operating costs between the 350 largest landlords in the English housing association sector. Its report… found “there was no significant evidence of a clear relationship between the scale of a provider and lower costs.”
Aren’t digital housing services good for residents?
Sorry this is just not true.
The policy is to save money for the new merged organisation. It cuts down ‘face to face’ time which is costly in terms of staff time. But of course slimming down the staff is part of the plan – remember the £20 million cuts promised in the residents’ presentation meetings by Kate Davies, who is to head the merged organisation.
From one company already being used by Genesis: “SeeMyData allows you to streamline your internal processes and reduce your face to face communication costs.” (Our emphasis)
Capita ( a private firm which works with Genesis on development) says the reasons to have Digital Housing Services are: “With all data integrated directly into your relevant systems and workflow, you will greatly reduce resources wasted accomplishing tasks which can be readily automated, and on interactions which can be readily avoided.” (Our emphasis)
Haven’t they promised a personalised service for residents?
This is just impossible given their aim of lowering face to face communication costs (see above) which saves money.
Personalised services for residents mean more local offices, more staff time, paying staff properly so they don’t leave etc.
This is just not what the merged organisation is about.
Surely ‘more buying power’ is good for residents?
The Long Term Qualifying Agreements (LTQAs) shows what they intend to do. Save money by upping the costs to residents.
LTQAs allow the new merged organisation to choose one contractor for all the cyclical maintenance – thus saving huge amounts of money because the tendering process is cut out. But it makes it very difficult to challenge the single estimate for cyclical maintenance from one company. The chosen company is effectively a monopoly and can then profiteer as much as it wants.
Genesis is already using single contractors and in addition adds a hefty 15% management charge on the cost. So they win and residents lose.
‘More buying power’ is a red herring.
Will we have democracy within the merger organisation with a strong voice for residents?
Both organisations operate a ‘resident involvement’ structure which is not democratic.
There has been: no negotiation on rent increases; no conversation about service charge hikes; no discussion of the the failure to carry out maintenance; no debate of the policies of selling existing homes or converting rents on voids to the much higher ‘affordable rent’ (unaffordable 80% of market rents).
In other words it is a quite literally a ‘fraudulent’ structure and does not ‘involve residents’ in meaningful negotiation or debate.
In Genesis four regional committee have been disbanded in the last few months and in NHH the main All Together Better committee with residents on it was disbanded in early 2017.
Both resident board members of the new merged organisation have been selected by Kate Davies not elected by residents.
Will there be a genuine possibility of moving?
Shared ownership is only for those who have substantial funds For the rest, we face flatlining wages and out-of-reach homes.
Both HAs are converting existing social homes to higher ‘affordable’ rent (80% of market rents) and selling existing homes from the NHH and Genesis stock.
This cuts down the chances of transfers to other homes within current stock.
And the new build homes are out-of-reach for most residents.
They say that £20 million savings brought about by the merger will help residents?
Why should this help residents? It will go towards their building plans for out-of-reach homes built on loans using our homes as collateral.
They have promised no redundancies. So they will use natural wastage. But will the work diminish? And if not, who will do it? Overstressed staff with massive workloads? This will mean a vicious spiral of staff turnover, overstressed staff and less and less services
What about the 400 new homes they promise?
They very carefully don’t say what kind of homes.
There is no evidence that these homes will be social homes with manageable rent.
There is lots of evidence that they will be for sale, for market rent or unaffordable ‘affordable’ rent. Just go look at either website under the ‘For Sale’ section to see what they are building.
But they are still charities, right?
No, they are not. Genesis and Notting Hill ceased to be charities in 1992.
Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which cut government regulation of housing associations, they can become whatever they want. They are rapidly turning into a commercial company.
They do take our safety seriously don’t they? Fire Risk Assessments”
No, sorry. Genesis has had a number of London Fire Brigade ‘Enforcement Notices’ against it, as has Notting Hill. Kate Davies reported that eight Notting Hill tenants were missing after the Grenfell fire.
On 28 October 2017 Genesis refused to disclose the Fire Risk Assessments on its properties.
This is not taking fire dangers seriously, nor treating residents with respect.
But they build social rent homes, no?
No. They talk a lot about this but in reality very few homes they build are social rent homes. They have got funding from the Mayor to build some more reasonable rent homes but this is nothing to do with either Genesis of Notting Hill.
Genesis has confirmed that they only built three social rent homes in the last two years. Notting Hill won’t even reply to the question.
What reason do we have for believing they will do any better when they merge?
Will they stop selling off and ‘converting’ existing social rent homes?
No. The chair of Genesis has defended these policies. He will be the chair of the merged organisation. So the policy he defends is unlikely to be changed.
They say thy will protect ‘localism’ with respect to services, don’t they?
There is no evidence that they will seek to increase or protect local services.
This kind of policy is directly contradictory to their policy of moving resident-to-staff contact on line and decreasing ‘face to face’ contact in order to save money.
Large commercial landowners do not have policies of ‘localism.’ It is about profit only.