The failing leadership of One Housing Group (OHG) and growth aspirations of The Riverside Group will lead both into merger later this year.
One Housing Group (OHG), is based in London and South East, and has 17,000 homes. Riverside is based in Liverpool, and has 58,000 homes across England. It aims to develop more in London and the south east.
The initial announcement suggests OHG will become a subsidiary of the Riverside Group, joining the group’s five other subsidiaries. The Riverside board and executive will take on the ultimate decision-making powers and responsibility for the activities of OHG, but that OHG will remain a descrete entity for at least two years.
This approach will no doubt help ringfence some of the risks caused by the OHG executive’s poor investment and management decisions. After the first two years, the option of OHG becoming a standalone organisation would remain, but amalgamation is more likely. At this point, OHG could disappear, with its assets and staff transferring to the parent.
Risks for Tenants, Residents and Workers
While the glossy adverts from prospective landlords paint an attractive picture, mergers rarely produce improved services and a better experience for tenants and residents or workers. They have a tendency to make the newly swollen organisation more remote and harder to engage with. Under the cover of making ‘efficiency savings’, and removing duplication, services are often cut, staff workloads expand to impossible levels and the voices of both are quashed. Although this move might seem to remove an immediate problem – a failing OHG leadership team – there are no guarantees that conditions will improve.
Staff and Union Consultation
There are plans for consulting staff via Unite the Union, which represents members in both organisations. Non-unionised staff will have separate consultation mechanisms.
No Ballot for Tenants and Residents
By contrast, there are promises but no published plans for engaging with tenants and residents. Inside Housing reports that “The housing associations [OHG and Riverside] also said there will be particular focus on engaging with residents to shape the consultation process and future plans for engagement” but the meaning isn’t exactly clear.
For such a fundamental change in landlord, there is a requirement for OHG to consult. The Regulator of Social Housing’s Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard (2017), which says “Where registered providers are proposing a change in landlord for one or more of their tenants or a significant change in their management arrangements, they shall consult with affected tenants in a fair, timely, appropriate and effective manner.” Read more here.
The statements released to the press already raise a number of questions and there will be others we need answered for tenants and residents to be truly engaged in the process.
SHAC@OHG tenants and residents will come together to compile a list of demands for the two organisations, setting out firm expectations on the organisation to deliver good quality housing and decent services, and, crucially, guarantee tenant and resident input, should the merger go ahead.
See the briefing document.
Join SHAC@OHG to be kept informed and get involved in the campaign.