Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tenants want draft rules changed to stop councils from blocking transfers

Complaint lodged against right to own proposals

Tenants’ associations have complained to the government about new ‘right to own’ proposals on the grounds they will allow councils to halt stock transfers too easily.

Two tenants’ and residents’ associations on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in west London, have lodged a formal complaint about the proposals - designed to force councils to co-operate with tenant-led stock transfer requests - with the Communities and Local Government department, in the hope they will be changed.

They hired law firm Winckworth Sherwood to advise them on the wording of their letter and believe the draft regulations breach the stated intent.

A CLG consultation on the proposals closed on 23 May. The draft regulations, known as section 34a regulations, published in March, require councils to arrange a ballot of residents, subject to certain conditions. However, the regulations allow a council to request the secretary of state for local government to halt a tenant stock transfer if it would have a ‘significant impact on the authority’s ability to deliver its housing services’.

Jonathan Rosenberg, community organiser for West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes, has written to the CLG to complain about the draft. In an email dated 23 May Mr Rosenberg said: ‘The [Housing] act sets out a clear positive obligation for the local authority to co-operate and therefore assist in the transfer of estates to residents.

‘However the draft regulations set out conditions and extraneous triggers that enable the local authority to use its own circumstances to negate the function of section 34a.’

The tenants’ associations have registered a private company, West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes Ltd, which it hopes can become a housing association and take control of the 761 homes on the estates.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council wants to demolish the homes instead and rehouse the tenants as part of the 8,000-home Earls Court regeneration project.

Mr Rosenberg also said the 10-week consultation breached CLG criteria stating that consultations should normally last 12 weeks and criticised a requirement for tenants’ groups to look at options other than transfer.

The National Federation of Tenant Managment Organisations echoed the tenants’ associations’ concerns in its consultation response.

‘We are not convinced that the draft regulations are robust enough to break through obstacles created by a determined local authority that intends to deny tenants the opportunity to transfer,’ it said.

A CLG spokesperson said: ‘The department is carefully considering all the responses received and we will publish our conclusions and a summary of responses in due course.’

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