The National Housing Federation (NHF), England’s primary association of social housing providers, is committed to giving people quality homes that they can afford. It has over 800 housing association members that work to keep this commitment with millions of individuals and families in need of safe and decent housing.
Several months ago, the NHF was thrown into the spotlight when ITV News aired a special broadcast showing the poor living conditions of residents in social homes provided by the association. The report exposed damp and black mould in the flats, water dripping from the walls and ceilings, and other housing disrepair issues.
NHF CEO, Kate Henderson, issued a statement and apologised on behalf of the association. She agreed that the social housing residents’ living conditions were unacceptable but assured the public that they were working on some adjustments. Henderson said she has consulted with members and found out that some of them are already putting in more money into the homes.
She revealed that the complaints process is currently under review to ensure requests are prioritised and damp and mould issues are taken care of right away.
An increase in complaints
While ITV News started looking into the appalling living conditions in England’s social housing properties only in March 2021, complaints filed against housing associations have been steadily rising. In 2018-2019, the housing ombudsman received approximately 5,409 complaints. Numbers from 2020 and this year are significantly higher as complaints filed have already reached the 7,300 mark, and the year is not even over yet. The ITV broadcast is clear proof that these numbers do not lie.
According to Henderson, the association invested over £5bn for maintenance and repairs last year. She said it is part of their commitment to offering affordable good quality housing services, but that they also learned from the cases that ITV News exposed.
National housing federation actions
Even as the federation and the housing system in general are under extreme pressure, Henderson has assured the public that they are working out ways to improve their services. One of their intentions is to partner with local communities and the government in managing the housing system issues.
Last year (2020), NHF worked with residents in coming up with new housing associations standards. The complete rollout will take some time, but it’s a significant step towards the goal of allowing residents to voice out their ideas and opinions. The new set of standards will make housing associations accountable to residents (and their rented homes).
In addition, NHF has started coordinating with every housing association in the country, making sure every region is represented. Their goal is to gain a better understanding of what additional actions they can adapt in addressing disrepair in home, specifically those involving damp and mould. This is one of the practical solutions that they developed as they work closely with the housing ombudsman.
Other relevant issues
Aside from the squalid living conditions exposed by ITV News, the National Housing Federation is also under public scrutiny for their chief executives salaries.
Housing associations are non-profit groups, but they earn additional income every time they build homes and sell these in the open market. So, the fact that their 2008 income of £10bn more than doubled to £21.2bn in 2020 is a major conversation starter.
Salaries of their chief executives range from over £284,000 to more than £436,000. These figures are not far behind—and even surpass—the average earnings (an estimated £340,000) of the chief executives of 2020’s ten biggest companies.
Tom Murtha, former NHF chief executive, expressed his concerns and said that the rise in the number of complaints is a sign that housing associations have changed their priorities. According to him, the associations’ massive growth has made some of the tenants the least of their priorities. He is concerned that the organisations seem to have forgotten that their first commitment is to the tenants who are in need of affordable, safe, and decent housing. Their values have changed, according to Murtha.
When asked to comment on the chief executives’ salaries, Henderson said that these salaries are determined by different independent boards, which often include residents. She further added that the salaries are similar to what not-for-profit organisations pay their executives.
For tenants currently living in appalling conditions, the chief executives’ salaries are unbelievably high and unacceptable, specifically because they, as renters, are forced to live with disrepair in home issues.
For Murtha, the NHF and housing associations’ priority should be to provide homes for people who cannot afford one.
Housing disrepair compensation
If you are one of the many who has had to sacrifice living in unacceptable housing conditions, you have the right to file a complaint. Get in touch with disrepairclaim.co.uk and their experts will help you exercise your tenant rights.