At a meeting of Tower Hamlets Council, Tower Hamlets Labour Group proposed a motion calling on the Mayor to write to the Homes & Communities Agency, calling for the regulator to investigate whether OHG residents have suffered serious detriment as a result of serious failings.
The motion also requests the Mayor to suspend OHG as a Preferred Partner in Tower Hamlets with immediate effect.
The motion was passed.
Cllr Dave Chesterton, who proposed the motion, said: “Something has gone seriously wrong with the leadership of One Housing Group, its residents say they have no trust or confidence in the organisation. This is hardly surprising given they propose to demolish 2,027 homes, yet are not prepared to be honest about their plans. One Housing seems more interested in the development opportunity on the Island than providing decent services to their residents. They are not fit to run these Island estates and will be reported to the regulator, the HCA.”
Cllr Candida Ronald, One Housing resident and Chair of the Samuda Estate Residents Association, commented: “One Housing is in complete denial about its appalling record in maintenance and repairs, it thinks it does a wonderful job, yet residents know the truth. No wonder residents say they do not feel supported or cared for and experience poor, inconsistent, inaccurate unfriendly communications. Residents never voted for One Housing to be their landlord and if they were given the opportunity I believe they would sack them. We deserve a decent, honest landlord and we want to speak to Sir Anthony Meyer about the values of his organisation.”
Mayor John Biggs said: “Residents brought forward a petition to the council meeting and it was made very clear, both from their contribution and from my conversations with residents and councillors, that there are very strong concerns with regard to One Housing Group. It was absolutely right that this motion was brought to the council meeting and I will be working with officers, councillors and residents to look at what can be done to provide tenants with the support they deserve.”
The motion submitted is as follows –
Urgent Motion regarding One Housing Group
This Council notes that:
- Following a stock transfer ballot in 2005, Toynbee Island Homes (a subsidiary of Toynbee Housing Association) took over four local authority estates on the Isle of Dogs: Samuda, St Johns, Barkantine and Kingsbridge. These four estate comprise 2,027 homes;
- In their offer document, Toynbee Island Homes promised that the transferred homes would be run by a board with residents in the majority: 15 members of which eight would be elected residents.
- In 2007 Toynbee Housing Association merged with Community Housing Association. The merged organisation, One Housing Group (OHG), took control of the four Island estates;
- In 2012 OHG wound up Island Homes and introduced area resident boards, with no decision-making powers;
- Residents on the four estates found their homes being owned by a very different landlord from the one which they had been promised and they still feel quite aggrieved;
- OHG has consistently performed poorly in terms of repairs, refurbishments, improvements and accounting. Leaseholders are particularly concerned that OHG is deliberately running down the estates in order to reduce property values;
- In 2014 OHG produced a 52 page report ‘Project Stone’ setting out proposals to replace all 2,027 homes with up to 10,000 properties, the majority for private sale. OHG still hasn’t adequately informed residents of these proposals;
- Following the 2014 council election the repairs and maintenance problems raised by residents were so bad that Island councillors agreed to work on a cross-party basis to tackle OHG;
- In January 2015 OHG embarked on a ‘Cross Island Conversation’ asking residents what they thought of their homes, estates and living on the Island. No mention was made of their proposals to redevelop the four estates; they wrote to residents saying “As yet – and despite the many rumours you may have heard – One Housing Group does not have a plan in place”;
- In spite of OHG’s persistent denials, it has held meetings with planners in both the GLA and Tower Hamlets to discuss Project Stone & the submission of a planning application, possibly by the end of 2015;
- A recent interim report of the ‘Cross Island Conversation’ revealed:
- Residents have no trust or confidence in their landlord;
- Inflexibility and lack of respect on the part of OHG – residents do not feel supported or cared for;
- Problems with repairs, and the high cost and poor management of major capital works;
- Poor, inconsistent, inaccurate unfriendly communications;
- In 2012 OHG agreed to purchase 123 S106 units at Indescon Court on the Island from the developer. The original S106 agreement in 2008 had assumed that these units would be available at social rent. OHG negotiated with the developer on the basis that higher affordable rents could be charged. These rents range from £977.99pcm for a 1 bed to £1126.92pcm for a 4 bed. The Council has made it clear to OHG that rents at this level are against the spirit of the original S106 agreement;
- Under current legislation, tenants of stock transferred properties have no right to a re-ballot and choose an alternative Registered Provider.
This Council believes that:
- OHG has failed to deliver on the promises made in the stock transfer offer document by its predecessor Toynbee Island Homes;
- OHG has a poor record of managing its major works programme as well as its maintenance and repairs services;
- OHG has developed proposals to redevelop the 2,027 homes that make up its four Island estates, but has steadfastly refused to inform its residents about these proposals;
- OHG’s own consultation exercise shows residents have little trust or confidence in their landlord;
- OHG’s proposed rents at Indescon Court have the potential to increase profit (possibly substantially) for the developers, at the expense of social housing tenants paying much more than was envisaged when the scheme was consented. This is not the behaviour expected of a Preferred Partner;
- Tenants should have a choice and where Registered Providers are performing poorly should have the right to demand a re-ballot and chose an alternative landlord.
This Council resolves:
- To request the Mayor to write to the Homes & Communities Agency, calling for the regulator to investigate whether:
- OHG residents have suffered serious detriment as a result of the failings of the Repairs & Maintenance service;
- OHG has been dishonest with residents over its plans to redevelop the Island estates;
- The ‘no confidence or trust in OHG expressed by residents through OHG’s own ‘Cross Island Conversation’ places the organisation in a position where it is no longer fit to carry out its functions as a landlord;
- To support OHG residents in preparing their own submission to the Homes and Communities Agency;
- To request the Mayor to suspend OHG as a Preferred Partner in Tower Hamlets with immediate effect. The council will not support them as a S106 partner with any developer and will not support them for any grant bids to the GLA;
- To request the Mayor to instruct officers to explore options for legal proceedings against OHG for breach of the Transfer Agreement and to report back to Full Council on the possibility of such proceedings by 16th September;
- To support Jim Fitzpatrick MP in his efforts to change legislation, to enable tenants whose homes have been subject to stock transfer the right to a re-ballot where their Registered Provider is performing poorly;
- To request the Mayor to seek a meeting with Sir Anthony Meyer, Chair of OHG, to address the failures of leadership within his organisation.