SHAC Letter in the Evening Standard

The London Evening Standard printed part of our letter in its comments section on Thursday 9th July. The full text follows.

The Reader: Social landlords must not add to housing crisis

You might expect an organisation with a social housing mission to use its resources to help those whose income has been hit by the pandemic. But many housing associations (HAs) raised rents and service charges in April, despite the income squeeze being experienced by many tenants.

More than half of all eviction notices are served by social landlords (mainly HAs). When evictions are restarted in August, they will become major contributors to London’s housing crisis. The Social Housing Action Campaign was set up to bring together tenants from across HAs. We are calling on them to use their vast resources, such as their collective surpluses of £4 billion, to waive rents and service charges for those whose income have been reduced. It is time for HAs to rediscover their social purpose.
Suzanne Muna, Social Housing Action Campaign

 

Editor’s reply

Dear Suzanne

Only 10,000 affordable homes have been built in London since 2017 — a lack of adequate housing is a problem the Mayor urgently needs to address. Non-profit housing associations should be able to step into the breach but they are set to lose the income they make from sales, which are down by more than half according to credit ratings agency Moody’s. In stretched times we must remind them not to lose sight of their purpose.
Susannah Butter, Comment Editor

Full original text:

Dear Evening Standard

Even before the pandemic, evictions due to financial difficulties were on the rise. The ‘gig’ economy and Universal Credit among others made it increasingly difficult for families to sustain regular rental payments. Repossession orders were temporarily halted when the courts closed earlier in the year, but many Londoners now fear a wave of eviction notices when they reopen in August.

Housing associations (HAs) provide ‘affordable’ rented homes to around 400k Londoners, and many more at market rent levels. The common perception of HAs is that they are benign organisations aiming to house those most in need. Unfortunately not.

You might expect an organisation with a social housing mission to use its resources to help those whose income has been hit by the pandemic. But many HAs raised rents and service charges in April despite the income squeeze being experienced by many tenants. Often, those who reported financial difficulties got little more than a referral to debt advice services.

HA executives are hopelessly out of touch. With average chief executive pay rises of 3.6% in 2019 (compared to zero in some cases for the non-executive staff), CEOs like London & Quadrant’s David Montague on a salary of £335,704 cannot identify with the economic struggles of the majority of Londoners.

More than half of all eviction notices are served by social landlords (mainly HAs). When evictions are re-started in August, HAs will thus become major contributors to a new and even more extreme phase in the London housing crisis – unless they fundamentally change their approach.

The Social Housing Action Campaign was set up to bring together tenants from across housing associations. We are calling for HAs to use their vast resources, such as their collective surpluses of over £4bn, to waive rents and service charges for those whose income has reduced as a result of the pandemic.

It is time for HAs to rediscover their social purpose and concentrate on keeping tenants in their homes, instead of adding to a homelessness crisis and passing the problem on to already overburdened local authorities.