One Housing Group (OHG) has published the results of its ‘customer’ consultation which shows that despite the landlord’s deluge of glossy propaganda claiming an extensive range of merger benefits, they have been unable to convince more than half of the consulted tenants and residents that it is a good idea.
In announcing the results of their consultation, OHG reports that only 48% favoured the merger, with 12% opposed, and the remainder undecided.
The Lessons of History
Many OHG tenants have already experienced a change of landlord. The group was formed by a merger of Community Housing Association and the Toynbee Housing Association. There have also been stock transfers of council housing, mainly in what is now the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Clearly those involved in the consultation look to past experience and are unconvinced by OHG’s six pledges, which include better services, a louder voice, investment in homes, better care and support services, and opportunities to improve livelihoods. Most dubious of all is the pledge that OHG will keep its promises.
The number of responses to the consultation was extremely low. Out of 16,000 households and 35,000 residents, just 3,632 people were involved in the whole of the consultation exercise.
The low response rate underscores concerns expressed by Apsana Begum MP (left). The figures do not provide a strong mandate for the merger to proceed.
Just prior to the announcement, Apsana Begum MP wrote on behalf of constituents, SHAC and the Unite Housing Workers Branch to Richard Hill, OHG chief executive, and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up.
Apsana noted that OHG’s “resident led structure was abolished and replaced with a board with no elected tenants.”, that residents “will be given no democratic say on whether the merger should go ahead”, and that their “existing structures are not democratic”. She asked Michael Gove to “make representations to One Housing Group requesting they hold a ballot of tenants before going ahead with a merger”.
Although OHG claims that the decision is not being rubber stamped, they are now due to speak to their lenders and investors, their most crucial audience, to progress.
Tenants and Residents Demand
Previously SHAC revealed that OHG’s merger partner Riverside hid gas safety breaches from the regulator, and is instrumental in convening a group of housing associations to lobby for changes in the law which would make it harder for tenants and residents to progress disrepair claims.
Our latest SHAC@OHG/Riverside forum discussed these issues, the low response rate to OHG’s consultation, and the results of SHAC’s own survey which found that a majority of members opposed merger. SHAC, together with the Unite Housing Workers Branch, is demanding that the merger be paused pending:
- Genuine Power – Establishment of genuine tenant and resident engagement;
- Information – Disclosure of all relevant information, including exploration of other alternatives to address OHG’s financial mis-management;
- Decision-Making – After this has been achieved, effective, genuine, resident-led consultation and a ballot to select the most appropriate solution;
- Accountability – Establishment of mechanisms through which tenants, residents and workers can hold OHG’s leadership to account without fear of harassment or victimisation.
SHAC@OHG / Riverside
We will continue to campaign for these aims and will provide further updates from inside Riverside.
Our SHAC@OHG group is open to tenants and residents of both One Housing and Riverside, and has been discussing the merger. All meetings are advertised on our Events page. To receive an invitation, please register here.
20 October 2021
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.