A coalition of housing campaigners protested the Affordable Housing Awards on Friday 17th November. The event was held at the prestigious Old Trafford grounds in Manchester.
The awards are presented annually to councils, housing associations, and their partners at an event organised by Inside Housing magazine and Reach PLC.
Tenants and residents expressed their anger that unworthy landlords were praised and helped to conceal poor performance. Peabody for example was shortlistedfor the ‘delivering for communities’ prize despite a damning judgement from the Housing Ombudsman in July for failing to address anti-social behaviour.
Landlords and their corporate partners were forced to walk through the picket line as protestors chanted anger at tables costing over £4,000, all paid on the company tab.
Although the event has been picketed annually since 2017, this year has been marked by an unprecedented unity across housing activists and groups who have worked together to mobilise for the protest.
In Their Own Words
Tenants, residents and activists planning to attend the protest have explained what has driven them to do so.
Suzanne Muna, SHAC Secretary said:
“This year the thought of their celebration has really hit a nerve. A single ticket costs upwards of £400 per person and they’ll each get a three-course lunch plus wine, all paid on the corporate tab. Of course landlords won’t be sending just one person, but whole batches of executives and senior managers. This is a disgrace in a cost-of-living crisis.”
Morag Gillie, Chair of Homes for All says:
“I am travelling from London to join the protest outside the misnamed ‘Affordable Housing Awards 2023’. Whilst they may be attending a lavish event of self indulgent and self congratulatory speeches, far too many tenants still reside in poor quality housing association accommodation and receive poor quality services.”
One protestor explained how she and her children have lived with damp and mould which has been condemned by her landlord several times over a period of 14 years, but they have yet to address it.
Morag goes on to explain that these ‘companies’ have received government funding and are encouraged to build unaffordable and shared ownership housing which is out of reach for the majority. Homes for All demands that housing should be developed to meet community needs, with rent and service charge controls. Income from rents should be spent on repairs and retrofitting of those homes.
Jake* from Greater Manchester Tenants Union said:
“Not only do our members increasingly suffer disrepair and damp, they have also been bullied and threatened by social housing legal teams when they have tried to complain. An event to celebrate landlords’ best practice using a show of wealth is immoral and offensive to their tenants whose require immediate redress to their housing issues.”
Hyde tenant Deni* is attending the protest to highlight how landlords are celebrating while tenants and residents have to suffer disrepairs. She explains that:
“We pay our rent and our homes are uncomfortable due to rodent infestation, water leakage from rainfall, leaking toilets onto the floors and into rooms below, landlord not responding to reporting of the problems, complaints and not completing repairs in one go or satisfactorily.”
Sam*, a tenant of Notting Hill Genesis similarly felt that the standard of housing is falling short while costs increase. She is attending because:
“Housing associations have taken the word ‘affordable ‘ and given it a new meaning to denote exactly the opposite. Now, housing associations tenants like me have extremely high cost versus extremely low quality living. This is nothing to be proud of – it’s adding insult to injury for HAs to spend our money on expensive award ceremonies.”
Ray* from Housing Rebellion said:
“It’s a great action. These organisations show us how housing is just a money-making machine, not something to house people and be managed. I’m joining as I live on an estate facing demolition”.
Housing Rebellion objects to the many demolitions carried out by housing associations. This process syphons off money to build homes that few on average wages can afford to live in, and the group argues powerfully for the superiority of maintaining and retrofitting homes instead.
Housing activist Paula* said:
“In the face of widespread discontent, landlords shamelessly pat themselves on the back at lavish events (and with lavish compensations) while their tenants and residents endure escalating costs while receiving no services or appalling disservice”.
Paula explained that she is protesting to show the frustration of those like herself, who have had enough of the self-congratulatory narratives spun by these landlords, and oblivious to the struggles faced by those living in their properties.
MedAct protestors drew out the link between poor housing and ill-health, as well as making it clear that the housing crisis is not inevitable but results from a series of political choices
The protest is not just a manifestation of discontent; it’s a demand for empathy and fairness in a landscape where the powerful too often turn a blind eye to the challenges of the less wealthy. It’s a rallying cry for a housing system that prioritizes the well-being of its inhabitants over the egos of those who profit from their plight and where landlords are held accountable.”
The groups organising the protest include the Homes for All and Homes for Us coalitions, Greater Manchester Tenants Union, Acorn, Generation Rent, London Renters Union, Defend Council Housing, MedAct, SHAC, New Economics Foundation, Inclusion London, Runnymede Trust, Disability Rights UK, Radical Housing Network, Housing Rebellion, Refurbish Don’t Demolish, Advice for Renters, and others.
Unfair and Uncapped
SHAC invited members to attend the protest as part of the Unfair and Uncapped campaign which calls for rents and service charges to be frozen in 2024.
With the announcement that CPI inflation remains at 6.7%, it is likely that most housing association tenants and residents will see rents rise by almost 8% next year. Service charges are not subject to any government cap and can increase considerably in excess of inflation.
Tenants and residents are already struggling financially and many fear they will fall into arrears if they are forced to absorb such rises.
* Not their real names
13 November 2023
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