A weekly roundup of the most important headlines for housing professionals
Is the reputation of the social housing sector in crisis? It certainly feels like it could be.
Last night Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, had to go on the national news to issue a solemn apology for the squalid conditions filmed inside housing association homes, occupied by residents who feel ignored by their owners. It was the culmination of weeks of ITV News reporting on cases of disrepair in council housing.
“I’m sorry these residents were disappointed,” Ms Henderson said. “They deserve better.”
There are four million social care homes in England, and stories of tenants having bad experiences are nothing new. But for the industry body to come out and admit something has gone seriously wrong rather than viewing the issues as an exception to the rule, it could be a turning point.
It came as the Housing Ombudsman revealed this week that the number of complaints it has received in the first three months of 2021 has increased by 73% compared to the same period last year – the service warning that this higher level “could be the new normal”.
This week, perhaps more than any other, it is crucial that housing officials pay close attention to the evidence given to the inquiry into Grenfell Tower by Robert Black, former chief executive of ALMO who managed the tower . The fact that the ITV reports are coming out four years after this appalling event, for which a failure to listen to residents has been blamed time and time again, only makes them all the more damaging. Inevitably, industry CEOs will come under scrutiny and may want to consider whether Mr Black’s evidence rings any worrying bells.
Separately, we were shouting blue fusion this week as Riverside announced talks to take on One Housing as a subsidiary. It’s the latest in a string of big merger plan announcements – two of which have since been scrapped – and it’s unlikely to be the last. This one is particularly interesting, not least because One Housing recently ran into financial difficulties, having been downgraded by the English regulator after posting a loss of £8.6m for 2019/20.