‘The Resident Promise’ and resident involvement. What should residents be asking for?

Headline ‘asks’

No increases of rent, service charges, or any other charges without resident agreement through a Board or Local Resident Boards with resident majorities. The Genesis executive team have imposed large rent increases to secure tenants refusing disclosure or negotiation with residents. Large service charge increases are imposed without negotiation or discussion. This kind of thing is wrong, and has to stop.

Repairs, cyclical maintenance, complaints, service charges, and regeneration projects should be overseen by either a Board with residents majority or Local Resident Boards with resident majorities. For example, the Genesis chair said in 2017 that Genesis has a ‘timetabled’ maintenance programme – but it remains secret. Research on repairs by independent consultants is not disclosed. This is poor management and must stop.

No sales or ‘conversions’ to higher so called ‘affordable rents’ of any existing social housing. NHH and Genesis have lost at least 500 more social homes than they built in the last five financial years through sales and conversions to higher ‘affordable’ rent. This was against their own rules and must stop immediately.

A completely independent complaints procedure. The internal complaints procedure has failed because of long delays and complaints that are ignored. Outcomes are not reported. This has got to change.

Democracy.

Democratic elections of all residents representatives on the Board and all other committees of Notting Hill Genesis (NHG). No more residents ‘appointed’ by the board or management. This is undemocratic and wrong.

The Board to have at least 50% elected resident representation. In Shepherds Bush Housing Association, the Board has one third residents. Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH) have a resident majority.

Independent expertise is required on the Board; not merely commercial interests. The new chair is a millionaire director of a wealth management firm with offices in tax havens. Another Board member is a director of an organisation which calls itself ‘The Voice of Commercial Real Estate Finance.’ Another has been key to the government’s totally discredited ‘Public Private Partnerships.’ Five of of the ten person ‘Shadow Board’ have arrived in the last 14 months.

Residents should form at least 50% of directly-elected independent shareholding. Shareholders should be independent of the Executive and Board. Shareholders were blocked from contact with one another or having their own meetings during the merger campaign. This is wrong.

Transparency and openness

Complete transparency and open research. Board minutes should be made available (with any sensitive information removed). Staff turnover and total salaries should be public. The impact of the ‘affordable rent’ programme should be researched. Fire Risk Assessments for all NHG buildings which require them (Genesis has 2,493) should be disclosed. Unnecessary secrecy must end.

Shareholders and resident’s organisation to have funding from NHG for independent research, professional and legal advice. During the merger campaign, shareholders were only offered legal advice from lawyers hired by the executive teams of Notting Hill Housing (NHH) and Genesis  – some of whom will personally benefit from the merger through ‘pay-offs’ and salary increases.

Real localism. Ballots and elected Local Residents Boards

The creation of directly elected Local Resident Boards with resident majority to oversee all operations in the local area The Local Resident Boards should form part of the governance structure of NHG. Current terms of reference stress that residents committees are not part of governance.

No mergers, regeneration or any other project without independent ballots of all affected residents. The ‘consultation’ on the merger did not ask NHH residents if they were in favour, and the full report has not been published. The Genesis Southend ‘regeneration’ project appears to be going ahead without an independent ballot.

Housing for the people. Defending the principle of social housing

The reconversion of ‘converted’ social housing back to social rent levels. Many thousands of homes which are now rented at out-of-reach ‘affordable rent’ (at up to 80% market rent) should be ‘re-converted’ back to social rent (currently at about 40% of market rent). The Joseph Rowntree Trust says that ‘affordable rent’ increases poverty and the ‘benefit trap.’

A commitment to have at least 50% social rent homes in all new construction. Genesis and NHH have only promised a meagre 6% to 10% social homes in their ‘development pipeline.’ For example, in February NHH obtained planning permission for Phase One of the ‘Fresh Wharf’ development in Barking and Dagenham. Of 531 homes, not one is a social rent home.

Residents face paying the costs of increasing debt

No increases in current debt levels for out-of-reach homes without resident agreement. Ratings agencies say NHG intend to increase the £2.8 billion debt to around £4 billion by 2020 to pay for constructing largely out-of-reach homes. Residents – who have no democratic say in the level of debt – will pay for this very poor policy which will not solve the housing crisis.

The Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents

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