A weekly round-up of the most important headlines for housing professionals
Is the social housing sector’s reputation in crisis? It certainly feels like it might be.
Last night, Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, had to go on national news to deliver a solemn apology for squalid conditions filmed inside housing association homes, occupied by residents who feel ignored by their landlords. It was the culmination of weeks of reporting by ITV News on cases of disrepair in social housing.
“I’m sorry that these residents have been let down,” Ms Henderson said. “They deserve better.”
There are four million social homes in England, and stories about tenants having poor experiences are nothing new. But for the industry body to come out and admit that something has gone seriously wrong rather than chalk the issues down as the exception to the rule, could be a turning point.
It came as the Housing Ombudsman revealed this week that the number of complaints it received in the first three months of 2021 were up a whopping 73% on the same period last year – with the service warning that this higher level “may be the new normal”.
This week, perhaps more than any other, it is crucial that housing leaders pay close attention to the evidence given at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry by Robert Black, former chief executive of the ALMO that managed the tower. That ITV reports are emerging four years on from that dreadful event, for which a failure to listen to residents has been blamed time and again, only makes them all the more damaging. Inevitably, the sector’s chief executives will come under scrutiny and may want to consider whether Mr Black’s evidence rings any worrying bells.
Separately, we were screaming blue merger this week as Riverside announced talks to take on One Housing as a subsidiary. It is the latest in a spate of big merger plan announcements – two of which have since been dropped – and is unlikely to be the last. This one is particularly interesting, not least because One Housing has been facing financial difficulties of late, having been downgraded by the English regulator after posting an £8.6m loss for 2019/20.
Later that same day, Aster Group unveiled plans to move into London via a merger with care specialist Central & Cecil Housing Trust.
Finally, if you have not already, take a look at Inside Housing’s annual Biggest Builders survey, which was published on Monday and is packed full of fascinating data. The survey identified a 15% drop in completions by housing associations – similar to figures published by Homes England this week – as a combination of COVID-19, Brexit and fire safety costs took their toll.
Nathaniel Barker, deputy news editor
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