After discussions with residents groups and local Genesis tenants Westminster Labour Group is formally registering its opposition to the proposed merger of Genesis and Notting Hill Housing that will be voted on by shareholders on 16th January. Genesis, the result of a previous round of housing association mergers, has its roots in the historic Paddington Churches Housing Association (PCHA) that helped build and manage homes for low income families particularly in North Paddington, North Kensington and Brent.
Despite the best efforts of some staff members Genesis has long been one of the worst performing housing associations in Westminster in-terms of the complaints received by local councillors and Karen Buck MP, with real issues over the condition of its housing stock and the way it deals with repairs and resident complaints. Shamefully, given its historic roots, Genesis has disposed of at least 244 homes Westminster since 2006 without any of the funds raised being reinvested in new homes in our city. The leadership of Genesis has in the past tried to downgrade its commitment to providing social housing, while Notting Hill’s private sector focused approach has also raised concerns amongst residents.
Westminster Labour is not convinced that a further merger will improve the way the organisation looks after its residents who must be the central focus of any properly functioning housing association. Making the organisation larger and even more remote is unlikely to improve accountability to residents.
Campaigners have raised understandable concerns that the provision of social housing has been removed from the proposed formal purpose of the new organisation and that there is no binding commitment to stop the sales of properties in its traditional heartlands such as North Paddington.
If Labour wins the council elections in May 2018 it is committed to introducing a preferred providers panel for housing associations that want to benefit from Section 106 contracts in Westminster, with strong criteria on resident involvement, repairs performance and preventing the sell-off of local homes. It will also ensure that a Labour-run council would campaign for wider reform of the Housing Association sector so that it refocuses on its core objectives of supporting tenants and providing social and genuinely affordable housing.
Leader of Westminster Labour Group Cllr Adam Hug said “Genesis should scrap the current merger plans and ensure that the organisation is fully focused on delivering a better service to its tenants and delivering the social and genuinely affordable housing that our community desperately needs.”