Riverside, Sanctuary Housing, Service Cuts, Staff Concerns, Tenant & Resident Democracy

Council Manifesto for People Centred Housing

People across the UK will be heading for local polling stations on the 5th May 2022. The seats being contested will include all London councils and local authorities in Wales and Scotland. There may also be elections for seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

With this in mind, SHAC members have collectively identified 25 demands for people-centred housing that councillors can commit to when developing council housing policy, or working with partner organisations. The partnerships increasingly involve housing associations.

Councils enter into contracts worth billions of pounds annually with housing associations, some for construction and others for the provision of services such as care homes and homelessness support.

Housing Associations in Partnership

One example is the Greater Manchester Housing Partnership which is an alliance in the form of a ‘Joint Venture Company’ with £3m each invested by ten housing associations, plus £2m by Greater Manchester council. In return, when the homes are sold or rented, the housing associations share 80% of the income, with the council receiving 20%.

Riverside and collaborator ForHousing were recently exposed for seeking to restrict access to justice for tenants and residents – more here

The partnership includes some of the more notorious associations in the area, such as ForHousing and Guinness Partnership, with severely tarnished reputations for their treatment of tenants, staff and trade union organisation.

Another example is Sanctuary Housing which made £763 million from the provision of care and support services in 2019/2020, the majority of which was contracted to local authorities. Like ForHousing, it has been publicly shamed for driving down wages and conditions for staff, and has hit the press repeatedly for squalid housing.

Councils currently place very few conditions on housing associations when they contract with them, and thus fail to wield their buying power for the good of constituents as fully as they could. The Manifesto aims to prompt councillors into attaching requirements to contracts. These demands range from binding ballots of local people before any regeneration scheme proceeds, requiring them to share fire risk assessments with tenants, and recognising the trade unions active within their organisation.

Unite Housing Workers Branch Demands on Labour Councils

Coinciding with the SHAC initiative, our sister organisation, the Unite Housing Workers Branch, has written to London Labour councillors demanding that they set ‘needs-based budgets’ where Labour is in the majority instead of implementing cuts. Such a commitment would allow councils to invest in building their own homes and providing services with directly employed labour.

Unite Housing Workers Branch Demands on Labour Councils

Both the SHAC and Unite Housing Workers Branch actions underscore the power resting within councils. They make clear that councillors do not have to accept the government narrative that tight public finances must necessarily leave them at the mercy of big corporate developers and service providers. They have the power to do a great deal better for their constituents, and with cost of living rises taking hold, now is the time to exercise that power.

They will be judged on their track records as well as their answers.

14 February 2022

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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