Fixed term tenancies, fire risk assessments (FRAs), transparency, using empty small flats to offer homes to overcrowded NHG families and Universal Credit. The fifth report back on the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.

Fixed term tenancies, fire risk assessments (FRAs), transparency, using empty small flats to offer homes to members of overcrowded NHG families, and Universal Credit.

The fifth report back on the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.

The Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents met with representatives of the executive team of NHG on 19 February. 

We had three people on our side – two members of the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Chair of the UNITE housing workers branch as an external observer. 

For NHG, Carl Byrne, Group Director of Housing and Jeremy Stibbe, Group Director of Regeneration and Strategic Asset Management attended. 

After this meeting we wrote to Carl Byrne, on 3 March, setting out the issues on which we had agreed –  and those which were still in dispute or which we had not the time to discuss at the meeting.  Carl Byrne replied in a letter which arrived on 29 March. You will find the two letters below. 

This report is the fifth of six report backs we are publishing on various aspects of the negotiations We are in the process of arranging general meetings for residents across NHG to discuss these negotiations and consider how to carry forward issues which are of concern to residents (which may not have appeared in these negotiations). 

1. Ending fixed term tenancies (see point 2.4 in both letters) 

We said that fixed term tenancies further undermine security of tenure in housing associations and they should end.

NHG response: We are pleased that NHG did not refuse this outright but said: “We are in the process of reviewing our tenancy policy and as part of this will be reviewing the use of fixed term tenancies. “

So this issue will have to wait for further developments or further negotiations.

2. Protection of those affected by Universal Credit and welfare benefit cuts (see points 2.5 in both letters)

We asked how many residents are being affected by Universal credit and other welfare benefit cuts.

NHG response: They said “By the end of this financial year around 4,000 residents will be claiming Universal Credit (UC). We expect approximately another 3,000 to move onto UC in the next 12 months. We know that many people struggle, particularly when they first claim UC, our research shows that on average rent arrears increase by £275 after a claim is made.”

While this response lays out the size of issue, we are very concerned that Universal Credit  (and other welfare ‘reforms’) will create huge problems for residents of NHG.  

3. Disclosing Fire Risk Assessments (see point 3.1 in our letter to NHG)

We again raised the point that Fire Risk Assessment should be disclosed. We are happy to say they agreed.  Our note of this point is as follows:

“Jeremy [Stibbe] indicated that the NHG position now was that the Fire Risk Assessments are already available to every resident who requests the FRA for his/her block.”

4. Adopting the transparency requirements of the Freedom of Information Act as it will inevitably be applied to housing associations by Parliament soon (see point 3.2 in both letters)

We asked if NHG were likely to try to be ahead of the curve and implement FOI transparency requirements before the HA movement is forced to do so through legislation. We cited the recent speech of Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, on this issue in which she said: ‘I am calling from urgent action from the Government to extend FOI to contractors delivering public functions..like housing associations.’ 

NHG response: was disappointing. “We have no plans to implement full FOI transparency requirements unless we are required.”

We do not believe this is an appropriate response for any organisation which says that it is ‘transparent.’ 

5. Offering homes which have been unsuccessfully referred to LAs to members of families of NHG tenants who live in overcrowded homes (see point 6.7 in both letters)

In the negotiations of 19 February, we understood from NHG, that in the case of some bedsits or small one room flats, NHG (and presumably NHH and GHA before it) has sought referrals, sometimes as much as 12, from local authorities without success. Only then was it decided to put the home on the market. We asked why can these not be offered to members of overcrowded families in existing NHG homes? We are thinking here particularly of sons and daughters growing up, but being forced to stay with their parents to due the high cost of housing in NHG areas of operation. 

NHG Response: They conceded this point saying:

“We have recently approved a Household members scheme which gives adult household members the opportunity to move into their own, separate accommodation, you can view information about this at 

https://www.nhhg.org.uk/residents/moving-home/your-moving-home-questions/

However we see from the page referred to that there is no clear promise of housing for applicants; and only one offer. Further clarifications/negotiations are needed.

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