Alternative housing awards, Clarion Housing, HA Service Charges, Health and Safety, Housing protest, Hyde Housing, Rent Strike, Rents, Sanctuary Housing, Service charge fraud, Service Charges, Tenant & Resident Democracy, UK Housing Awards

Protests Force Cancellation of Housing Executives Awards Extravaganza

We won, and it’s worthy of a celebration.

It took 54,000 signatures on a petition, and a threatened mass mobilisation to picket & protest at the event.

It also took an increased media focus on the failings of the social housing sector which was triggered by a coroner confirming that a two year-old boy had died as a direct result of the toxic mould and damp conditions in his home. It was a damning indictment of the state of social housing.

We’re standing down from this one, but our fight for housing justice continues.

SHAC aimed to picket the annual UK Housing Awards ceremony after almost 54,600 people signed our petition calling on organisers to cancel. The petition was launched in September and climbed rapidly. It expressed a new groundswell of anger at the gap between wealthy, pampered executives, and the struggles that public housing tenants and residents face on a daily basis.

Executive Self-Congratulation

The annual UK Housing Awards ceremony is a lavish self-congratulatory event for the executives of housing associations and council housing departments, and is due to take place on the 25th November in Manchester.

This year, the event will be held against a backdrop of the deepest cost-of-living crisis in 40 years, but attendees will pay anything between £370 and £2,700 to attend. Unlike their tenants and residents, they will be treated to a lavish dinner, wine, and entertainment.

Among the nominees was Hyde, the housing association most frequently reported to SHAC for service charge abuse. It regularly charges for services that are extortionate, non-existent, or not delivered, and fails to act when inaccuracies are highlighted.

L&Q was also nominated. It has a severe problem with the quality of its housing stock. It was named and shamed by ITV Housing Stories for subjecting tenants to prolonged, appalling housing conditions. Tenants and residents organised by SHAC have been forced to withhold service charge payments just to get heard by their landlord. Their presence amongst the nominees would be a surprise, except that L&Q’s Executive Group Director of Finance is one of the judges.

Both L&Q and Clarion were named and shamed on ITV Housing Stories

Add scandal-prone Clarion. The UK’s biggest housing association that was out of action for almost five months, claiming it is unable to provide access to services because of a cyber attack. It also received three ‘Severe Maladministration’ judgements from the Housing Ombudsman in as many months, and featured in ITV Housing Stories for a decade-long, deliberate, managed decline of the Eastfields estate.

A Record of Failure

So what have housing associations, holding £4 billion in reserves, done over the last year to support struggling tenants and residents?

They have not eliminated 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.

They have not increased the number of homes at social 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 – one of the hosts for this event.

They have not eased overcrowding. 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.

They have not helped people keep warm and safe. Last year, the number of people living in unsafe and poorly heated homes rose sharply. Over 1.2 million people living in the countryside couldn’t keep their homes warm during winter. Around 7.5 million people living in cities struggle with toxic mould, damp and condensation. These statistics will only worsen with the rocketing cost of heating.

They have not ended the cladding scandal. Unsafe cladding continues to blight lives and put people in danger. Inside Housing, another co-host of the UKHA event, estimates that in England alone, around 274,000 high-rise flats, and housing up to 657,000 people, remain affected by unsafe cladding.

They are not supporting people in housing crisis, they are evicting them. In 2019, there were 30,813 evictions by county court in England and Wales, and housing associations were more likely than councils and private landlords to evict through the courts.  As more people fall into rent arrears, eviction will be the penalty that too many people pay for being unable to afford their home through no fault of their own.

No Cause for Self-Congratulation

There is no reason for housing associations to self-congratulate, and the financial struggles that people are facing give plenty of reasons to cancel this extravaganza. The money spent on this event would be far better targeted towards helping social housing tenants and residents in desperate need of safe, secure, affordable housing.

SHAC spelt out objections to the event in a communication with Pete Apps, Editor in Chief at Inside Housing, and Gavin Smart, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, the two organisers of the event. The full correspondence can be read here.

Background Articles

12 November 2022

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