Housing association residents ask Shapps to step in over 'forced takeover'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities
Tenants write to Shapps to block takeoever
Tenants and Residents Association Chairs of estates run by a housing association on the Isle of Dogs have written to Grant Shapps in an attempt to halt what they claim is a forced takeover by One Housing Group.
The residents of Island Homes claim that a series of actions by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Island Homes and One Housing Group are tantamount to maladministration and abuse of power.
The tenants claim that a consultation process by Island Homes was a "sham" and is now being used as evidence that residents are in favour of a takeover.
In January, Island Homes announced that its board had decided to dissolve Island Homes Housing Association and transfer the stock to One Housing Group. It is claimed that Island Homes began a consultation process with residents consisting of sending out a letter backing its own proposal.
The Chairs believe that residents did not receive any information about what they would lose if the merger took place, were hoodwinked and that the consultation is "fatally flawed".
In the letter to the Housing Minister, they write: "We note with interest your commitment to the 1,000 Communities campaign and the Government’s commitment to the Right to Manage and tenants having local control of services.
"We are writing to you as a last resort requesting your intervention to halt the abolition of our Housing Association as – despite maladministration by the Local Authority and mismanagement by the Group which took over our Housing Association in 2008 – no other body or individual has been
able to correct the injustices we are suffering."
"Four estates on the Isle of Dogs, Tower Hamlets, were transferred out of Council ownership under the previous Government’s Stock Transfer legislation. There was a lengthy consultation, as required by that legislation, before transfer took place (on 5th December 2005).
"This decided the stock should transfer to a new Housing Association which would be led by resident board members who would be elected by residents themselves and in which the Board would set policy and control the purchase and delivery of services.
"This model was put to tenants in the Council’s 'Offer Document', on which basis tenants voted for transfer to Toynbee Island Homes. The Housing Corporation required that Toynbee Housing Association act in a 'parental' role to help the new Housing Association get on its feet.
"To date, requests, letters, delegations, petitions and motions via our local councillors, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, our MP and the Audit Commission have failed to restore the Island Homes which residents voted for and which we are keen to manage, together, for the benefit of local people.
"One Housing Group has now invited the Island Homes Board to wind up the Housing Association so that all properties can be merged into One Housing Group and governed centrally from Chalk Farm – and the Board has, yet again, obliged. A perfunctory consultation process saw Island Homes explain that such a merger 'could' save money: clearly an insufficient basis for a meaningful consultation. Resident Organisations are embarking on our own programme of consultation and are confident that residents, who never opted for the kind of service One Housing Group delivers, will once again reject the option of being swallowed up."
In a statement, One Housing Group said: "Island Homes is an existing subsidiary of One Housing Group. This final part of the integration will ensure that none of our residents will be worse off as a result – on the contrary the vast majority will gain.
"There is a small protesting minority but the large majority of our residents are enjoying better locally provided, high quality housing and community services.
"We carried out thorough and extensive resident consultation lasting six weeks, that included providing translation services, visiting the vulnerable and house bound in their homes and providing Island Homes and One Housing Group residents in Tower Hamlets with a FAQ and answer sheet.
"The results of the consultation showed over 80% of residents were in favour of the integration. The number of residents who replied to the consultation was 796.
"The integration has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the regulator.
"When One Housing Group first took responsibility for Island Homes we were extremely concerned about high rent arrears, the number of empty properties, poor responses to anti-social behaviour and, in general, poor standards of estate management and maintenance.
"At the time prior to One Housing Group involvement the audit commission full inspection revealed zero stars for service. This position was reversed through a sustained service improvement plan and full audit commission sign off was achieved.
"We have also been awarded the enhanced service (gold) standard by Quality Housing Services (an independent external quality auditor).
"The integration of Island Homes into One Housing Group will mean better value for money and the savings will be reinvested into providing better housing and community services."