Cllr Alan Hall has joined housing campaigners calling for Housing Associations to “look long and hard at their original purpose – they should help tenants by waiving rents and service charges as the Covid19 pandemic continues. They must not add to London’s housing crisis as the economic consequences bite.”
The Social Housing Action Campaign has had a letter published in the Evening Standard saying that more than half of all eviction notices are served by social landlords (mainly Housing Associations). When evictions are restarted in August, they will become major contributors to London’s housing crisis.
Many housing associations were established as independent, charitable organisations with the purpose to help tackle homelessness, and others to provide homes and care services for specific groups like older people.
SHAC’s Suzanne Muna said: “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. SHAC wants Housing Associations to waive rents and service charges for families struggling due to Covid19.”
The full text of SHAC’s letter in the Evening Standard is here:
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 400,000 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.