A weekly roundup of the most important headlines for housing professionals
Events in Ukraine over the past week have been difficult to follow.
The images of the country’s major cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv being bombarded, while its inhabitants hide in underground shelters, are a sobering reminder of the immense grief and suffering caused by the war.
Naturally, the Russian invasion was rightly met with worldwide condemnation. In the West, countries have imposed scathing sanctions on the Putin regime and those close to it. Multinational companies withdrew from Russia, stopping services and ending partnerships with Russian companies.
And now it looks like some in the housing sector are taking a stand to show their solidarity with Ukraine and their disgust at Russia’s actions.
Earlier in the week, Suffolk County Council announced it was ending its contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom in response to what its leader called Vladimir Putin’s ‘totally reprehensible’ actions. .
Others have now followed suit. Wealden Council is considering stopping Gazprom from supplying energy to its sheltered homes, while Kent County Council says Gazprom has now been suspended from participating in its buying company’s fixed-price gas framework of energy. Kent was also looking to reduce its pension funds’ exposure to Russian assets.
Home Group was the first of the housing associations to publicly announce that it had canceled one of its agreements with Gazprom, saying that while the contract “represented good value for money, democracy had higher value”.
Decisions by district councils and housing associations will in themselves be a pinprick for the $87.5bn energy giant. Yet, as more companies, organizations and owners turn away from Russia, it will pile up economic pressure on Russia.
But it is also a symbolic gesture. It shows that friends around the world are ready to take economic blows to show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine who are currently facing the most horrific conditions. Expect to see more homeowners follow suit and when they do there will be increasing pressure on others to follow in the footsteps of Home Group and others.
Yet, while these are positive steps for the sector in the short term, the real contribution of the housing sector to the Ukrainian crisis will come in the months and years to come. There are currently around one million Ukrainians who have fled the country since the start of the invasion and this is expected to increase further. On Tuesday, following anger over its initial response, the UK government announced it could take in more than 200,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine to Britain.
It is up to the country to ensure that those who, as a result of an aggressive neighbor, have lost their homes in their native Ukraine, can find a new refuge in the United Kingdom. The social housing sector has a key role to play in this regard.
Elsewhere, Chief Reporter Stephen Delahunty has a big story of a second Peabody resident who went undiscovered for months after his death. Terry Watkins was found dead by police in his housing association flat in Wild Street, Westminster, on Monday July 19, 2021, after residents claimed concerns had been raised about his welfare for month.