One Housing Group (OHG) keyworkers are being told to absorb a shocking 11.1% rent increase this month, according to letters that have been passed to SHAC.
Selma*, a teacher on a keyworker tenancy with OHG in London, received one such letter out of the blue in September. Selma questioned the increase as housing association rent rises normally take effect in April of each year. Most are aligned to government’s social housing rent cap and this year, the rent cap was set at 7%.
Selma also has to pay service charges which are not subject to any regulation or cap, and said:
“I am already struggling. There is no way that I can find an extra 11% when my pay hasn’t gone up for the last year. I am not going to be paying the increase. I can’t afford it. Which key workers have had pay increases over 10%?”
OHG replied to Selma saying:
“The 7% cap does not apply to supported housing, market rented tenants and keyworker tenants. As you are a keyworker tenant, the 11.1% increase does apply to you.”
The OHG response still creates some confusion however as not all those on supported housing and market rents have received a similar increase.
Charity Does Not Begin at Home
One Housing Group owns and manages more than 17,000 homes across London and the South East, housing around 35,000 tenants and residents. It describes itself as having:
“… a charitable housing association at its core. We believe in creating places that people can call home, supporting people to live well and building lasting homes and communities.”
But as Selma is finding out, the association sees no contradiction in applying rent increases that risk making tenants and residents homeless.
Richard Hill (left) One Housing Group chief departed the association earlier this year. Riverside chief Carol Matthews (right), announced last month that she is also leaving.
OHG which primarily owned properties in London and the south east, recently merged with a northern based housing association, Riverside Housing Group. Both have considerable wealth. OHG made an operating surplus of more than £37 million in 2022, and Riverside’s surplus exceeded £105 million.
The organisations are also generous in their executive pay. OHG’s chief earns around £230,000 per year, and Riverside pays more than £260,000. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, public and community workers living in their homes are being pushed into financial penury.
The government’s Key Worker Living scheme was launched in 2004. It aimed to stem the drain of public service workers in London and the south east where high housing costs caused recruitment and retention problems for employers. The scheme offers discounted rents and mortgages.
Selma joined SHAC’s Unfair and Uncapped campaign to demand a freeze on rents and a cap on service charges to prevent people being priced out of housing association homes.
The leading edge of the campaign supports tenants and residents to withhold payment of rent and service charge increases, as well as organising protests, political lobbying, and media work.
* Not their real name
14 October 2023
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