On the 25th November, the social housing sector will hold the UK Housing Awards ceremony to congratulate itself on the great job it has done over the last year. The event is sponsored by Inside Housing Magazine and the Chartered Institute for Housing.
Possible winners this year include One Housing Group, Gentoo Group, Peabody, L&Q, and Clarion. All have achieved noteriety over the last year – for all the wrong reasons.
The full shortlist is available here.
The Wrong Awards
This is the wrong thing to do. The sector is sending out the wrong message at the wrong time. It is the wrong class promoting the wrong incentives. They celebrate the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and pander to the wrong audience. The awards rely on the wrong values, aims and objectives, and the ceremony will involve housing executives talking about tenants and residents in the same old wrong condescending and patronising way.
The awards will be given to councils and housing associations, and in some cases to the private companies they work with. Instead of plaudits, the executives of these organisations, and housing associations especially, should hang their heads in shame over their collective track record.
Reasons to be Ashamed: The Charge Sheet
The housing association sector has a combined operating surplus from core activity (ie. from social rents) of £4.4bn. It has housing assets worth £174.4bn on the balance sheet (an increase of £10.4bn on 2019). And it has access to £28.1bn of undrawn debt facilities and cash as at March 2020 (1). The sector has all this resource, and yet it is …
Not eliminating homelessness. Since 2010, the rough sleeping figure has increased by 52%. According to government, 2688 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night (2).
Reducing the number of homes at affordable rents. The number of council and housing association homes being let at social rent fell by 210,000 between 2012 and 2020, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (3).
Overcrowding is getting worse. Shelter reports that at least 1.5 million people are living in overcrowded social homes today – an increase of more than 40% in just five years (4).
More people live in unsafe homes. Over 1.2 million people living in the countryside can’t keep their homes warm during winter. Around 7.5 million people living in cities struggle with toxic mould, damp and condensation (5).
Unsafe cladding has still not been addressed. It continues to blight lives and put people in danger. Inside Housing estimates that in England alone, around 274,000 high-rise flats, and housing up to 657,000 people, are affected by unsafe cladding. The sector is already trying to make tenants and residents pay for remediation (6).
Those in housing crisis are being evicted not supported. In 2019, there were 30,813 evictions by county court in England and Wales. Landlords issued 110,907 claims to the courts for evictions and of these, 87,698 turned into orders. In many cases, tenants move out before the order is turned into bailiff action (7).
Housing associations are the group most likely to evict through the courts. Housing associations now make up the bulk of social landlords. In 2019, between October and December 2019, 60% (15,370) of all landlord possession claims were from social landlords (8).
Your Golden Ticket
In the context of these figures, housing executives have nothing to crow about. The indulgence of the awards ceremony seems doubly obscene when Covid-19 has exacerbated the hardship suffered by those on low incomes.
In previous years, the awards were held at a plush hotel in the West End of London. This year they transfer to the O2 Intercontinental Hotel in Greenwich. At the top end, the price of entry will exceed the amount many families have to live on in a month.
A single seat at the prestigious event will set you back £345 plus VAT. Of course most organisations don’t buy a single seat.
In the ‘Standard Zone’, a table for five will cost £1,650, or a table for ten at £2,995.
If you wanted to enter the premium zone, you will need to shell out £3,995 for a table for ten. As well as the basic dinner, wine, and reception drink, you would also be given a magnum of champagne and premium chocolates in an individual presentation box.
If this isn’t privileged enough for you, however, you can pay a whopping £4,495 for a ‘poseur’ table in the VIP section. As well as the standard fare, you get to enjoy branded in the drinks reception, a prime view of the stage while you mingle with VIP guests, a logo branded sign on your table, a professional photograph, and a magnum of chilled champagne, plus other goodies.
This cohort got priority access to the ceremony, a table for ten with a prime view of the stage, and the opportunity to rub shoulders with other privileged guests. Their tables were branded with their corporate logo, and guests received all the other goodies for the ticket price.
Judging the Judges
The UK Housing Awards sponsors claim that “judging panel represent an array of leading voices from across the housing sector”. It includes familiar figures in the sector, like Clare Miller, Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group.
Clarion has acquired an appalling track record on repairs, service charges, and the mistreatment of tenants. It has been particularly criticised by SHAC members for refusing to listen to tenants and residents, even over safety issues, with frightening echoes of the disregard for Grenfell tenants’ concerns before the disaster in 2017. (See the Clarion: See Us, Hear Us campaign).
ITV News reported that Clarion, the biggest housing association in Britain, admitted failing tenants when the ITV Housing Stories series exposed widespread disrepair and squalid conditions across the Eastfield estate of nearly 500 homes. The investigation found:
“shocking conditions on the estate and dozens of families living in damp, mouldy, crumbling homes with ongoing leaks. The estate is plagued by a rodent infestation, with several residents showing us videos of mice and rats in their properties.“ (ITV News)
And The Winner Is …
SHAC members will recognise some of the landlords awarded trophies in previous years. In 2020, Notting Hill Genesis won a UK Housing Awards commendation as ‘Innovator of the Year’. Genesis featured recently in our article ‘Flooded: A Notting Hill Genesis Tenant’s Soggy Story‘.
Hyde Housing won ‘Homebuilder of the Year’ in 2019, and has featured in numerous articles published by SHAC, particularly those featuring extortionate and fraudulent service charging. (See Hyde’s Mission: Service Charge Surpluses Not Social Housing)
In the same year, the ‘Neighbourhood Transformation Award’ went to Onward Homes. This landlord was covered in our article Onward Heads Downwards highlighting the state of disrepairs that its tenants and residents were forced to endure.
Our 2021 Protest
SHAC and other housing groups will be holding a protest outside the UK Housing Awards ceremony at the O2 Intercontinental Hotel on the 25th November. We assemble from 5pm outside North Greenwich Tube Station.
Please join us on the evening. Help us challenge the housing association executives wallowing in excess, whilst leaving tenants to wallow in debt, disrepair, and housing stress through the conditions they create.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join our planning committee.
16 August 2021
(1) Regulator of Social Housing Global Accounts
(3) CIH quoted in Inside Housing
(4) Shelter overcrowding report
(5) Shelter fuel poverty report
(6) Inside Housing
(7) Nimble Fins
(8) UK Government
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.