Hammersmith and Fulham Council have published extraordinary proposals to privatise their entire council housing stock – flogging it off to a housing association. They have kept quiet about the implications but the Voluntary Stock Transfer to a Housing Association would mean ending council housing forever within the borough. The Labour Council has begun a “consultation” spending millions of pounds on consultants and lawyers – money which could be better spent on improving council housing or building new homes.
If it goes ahead the proposal could lead to higher rents and service charges, less security of tenure and less power for tenants. For example, in 2013 the rent per week for a two bed council flat was £95.37 compared to £117.61 for one rented from one of the borough’s major housing associations.
Cllr Charlie Dewhirst, the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith, has written to Council tenants and leaseholders to oppose the plans:
“I do not believe that stock transfer is the right approach. The Council’s time and resources would be better spent improving its housing stock and building new affordable homes for local people, not selling them off.
I am shocked and deeply concerned that the Labour Party is planning to give your home away to a Housing Association without any guarantee to you over your future. Housing is one of the most important issues facing us here in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. We need to build more homes, not sell them off. Under Labour’s plans you could be hundreds of pounds worse off each year through higher rents and service charges, and be far less secure in your home. This is not right and I believe the people of Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush deserve better.
I will be campaigning hard against the planned sale of Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush council housing. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to add your name to the campaign.”
But the Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter backs the Council’s sell off plan. He says:
“The Labour Council is now planning a Borough-wide consultation with tenants and leaseholders to ensure that Council housing can be safeguarded for the future and that residents have more control over their homes. It wants to protect Council housing for future generations, start building new affordable homes and safeguard the rights of existing tenants. That way if the Tories ever get back in power locally they cannot auction off and demolish homes or worsen conditions for tenants. I have spoken to the councillor responsible for housing and the leader of the council and they will be in touch with you to provide further reassurance.”
Mr Slaughter’s response is, to put it kindly, muddled.
If the housing ceases to be owned and managed by the council in what sense is “council housing” “safeguarded”? He gives the game a way by saying (with rather undemocratic triumphalism) that a future Conservative council would not have anything to do with such housing. But then nor would any future Labour council. You see it wouldn’t be council housing anymore.
Mr Slaughter’s logic that all council housing should be sold to prevent a future Conservative council selling any housing is also perverse. He complains that the previous Conservative council “sold off at auction several hundred vacant Council homes rather than re-letting them to families in need.” But these were properties either in terrible disrepair or of very high value. Doesn’t it make more sense if a council house in Parsons Green worth £2 million comes vacant to sell it and use the proceeds for more replacement homes and improvements of existing stock?
But anyway Mr Slaughter’s stance is that the Labour council should sell all its 12,500 properties – with sitting tenants – to avert the possibility of a future Conservative council selling a few hundred more vacant properties.
I think he will have to come up with something a bit more convincing than that.
Here is a briefing about the implications of Labour’s proposals:
HIGHER RENTS AND SERVICE CHARGES
Housing Association rents are typically much higher than council rents, in some cases by as much as 25%. For example, in 2013 the rent for a two bed council flat was £95.37 per week, whereas for a two bed Notting Hill Housing flat the rent was £117.61 per week. So being a tenant in a typical 2-bed flat with a Housing Association, as opposed to the Council, could leave council tenants £1,156.48 a year worse off.
Under any proposals for stock transfer there is no guarantee over future levels of rent despite any promises made. Service charges are generally higher for Housing Association tenants. In most stock transfers the small print in the offer document shows service charge rates are only guaranteed for a few years, if at all.
Again, under stock transfer there is no guarantee over future levels of service charges.
On transfer council tenants will lose their special ‘secure’ tenancy and get an ‘assured’ tenancy. There are differences in law between the two types of tenancy. The Council may try to claim that the new landlord will write additional rights into your new assured tenancy contract, which will make it the equivalent of a secure tenancy. However, a promise by the new landlord not to use certain powers is not the same as the statutory rights ‘secure’ tenants have in law.
If the Council wants to evict a tenant, they must prove both the ground for possession (e.g. rent arrears, anti-social behaviour) AND that it would be ‘reasonable’ to evict them. A Housing Association can seek to evict you without the court having to consider ‘reasonableness’ in 8 out of 17 grounds for possession.
MERGERS AND TAKEOVERS
The Council may try to say that the transfer will be to a locally-based organisation. But this won’t last long. There is a high risk the new landlord will merge or be taken over by one of the big London housing associations. In Old Oak for example the well run and much respected Old Oak Housing Association, formed when the council did a stock transfer in the late 1990s has now been swallowed-up by Family Mosaic, losing all of its distinctive identify and character. Residents there did not get a meaningful say on their future.
Also tenants won’t get a vote on takeovers or mergers and the new Housing Association landlord is under no legal obligation to keep promises made at the time of transfer.
TRANSFER: LESS POWER FOR TENANTS AND LEASEHOLDERS
Don’t be taken in by the council’s idea of ‘community ownership’. A ‘Community Gateway’ or ‘Community Mutual’ is just a Housing Association by another name. There will be wild claims made about making tenants a ‘shareholder’ and how that will empower them, but there’s no basis for this. Tenant ‘shareholders’ in a community mutual or gateway organisation generally won’t even have the right to elect the whole board.
Tenants and leaseholders of the council get to elect their landlord every four years and, if you don’t like the way things are done, you can vote them out through the ballot box. This direct democratic relationship with your landlord will be lost after transfer.
Hiousing Associations like Notting Hill and Shepherds Bush Housing are ‘auctioning off’ (i.e. selling) high value street properties in this borough and other boroughs like Westminster right now, and have been doing for years. They know this is the most cost-effective way to increase the supply of new, comfortable and energy-efficient housing. LBHF under the previous Conservative administration were only doing the same thing, but were pilloried for it by Labour. The economics of housing in London mean a proportion of unmodernised, expensive to maintain state-owned Victorian stock has to be sold; the current Labour council know it, but have painted themselves into an ideological corner. Hence one reason for the transfer.
I wouldn’t trust the Conservatives of H&F with anything to do with council housing – who approved the West Ken Estate development? What about the complete lack of council housing in new developments such as Goldhawk Road and Fulham Reach? How many council houses will there be in the Riverside Studios development? How many are in Imperial Wharf?
I live in Hammersmith and Fulham and have done for the past 30 years. I’m disgusted by the way the Conservatives have blindly gone ahead with their own agenda in this borough by simultaneously ripping the heart out of what has largely up until now been a vibrant and diverse community.
No amount of pre election propaganda (this post included) will guarantee a conservative win in this borough. In the 4 years since they’ve been elected they’ve closed down two of our A and E’s and bulldozed down estates (that have been home to hundreds of families for generations). The conservatives (with no care or understanding about what this borough actually wants) have put their own selfish individualist desires ahead of what the community wants. Displacing families by building luxury flats in west Kensington and shepherd’s Bush that the locals can’t afford. Who’s decision was it to clear the 100 year old shepherd’s Bush market in favour of a few luxury flats?? Shepherds Bush Market is what makes Shepherds Bush what it is. Talk about being completely out of touch with the electorate.
I for one can’t wait until the election Time to kick these Conservative idiots out of our borough.
Last time I looked which was today…..Hammersmith and Fulham is still one of the most diverse communities in the UK.
Also which A and E have closed? …..none…that was scaremongering from labour lies that charring cross hospital would be demolished by the tories which has not happened nor will it happen. All lies so labour could win votes…..reminds me a bit of Brexit lies about NHS bus saving millions if we leave the EU….more lies..
Labour are out of date and out of touch party and should not be given any powers or responsibility of council housing…they are just making decisions to spite the tories which in this day and age and economic uncertainty very ridiculous on there side.
Council housing should be kept for those who need it and any expensive empty housing should be sold on to pump more money into new housing…..high unemployed and crime ridden estates should be bulldozed and re built energized….not left to deteriorate even more untouched rife with crime. Council tenants who work and save hard should continue to be allowed to buy there home and the idle lazy unemployed forced to get a job or get out of town…..London has always been a power house of a city for the hard working for all people and nationalities and if you can’t stand the heat your ass is out of this city.
Sooner the better labour throw in the towel and leave poor decisions about council housing well alone.
We have enough to worry about with Brexit without labour messing things up even more.
The intentions selling council housing stock are supported by all party political party’s, The problem is not selling to associations but rather having rents at a reasonable price but only doing so at creating jobs with a higher wages also keeping tax’s law…. My concerns what plans are recommended for first time buyers who want to buy their rented homes.
Please excuse my spelling mistakes
Stock transfer is far more complex then anyone is telling us. My understanding is as follows: A secure tenant will lose several rights – you may still have the right to buy your property if you move but this is not indefinite and you can lose this if you then move again. Beside, buying in London for many, even with a discount, is night on impossible.
Assured tenancies always lead to higher rents – they are not controlled in the same way. Target rents could not be put as high via the council so this has been a sticking point. The minute you are moved higher rents can be set. New Housing associations can then stock transfer to others with all that entails. You do not have the same rights under an assured tenancy – and you will become an assured tenant. The most frightening of these is that if you do not pay your rent on time HAs can use this to get you out and very quickly. Much of the time late rents are down to late payments made far worse by the new system of Universal Credit where there are huge delays quite often in getting payments out on time. You may be out before anything can be done about it.
You cannot hold housing association board members to account in the same way that you can your council , by voting them out if they do not do a good job. You do not automatically have the right to have a lodger – it is up to the housing association. Repairs in the long run can cost a lot more because there are now huge profits being made in this sector – you only have to read about it to know why this is the case – much higher rents and service charges. There is so much more…look into it!
In 2013 rents with housing associations were often £20+ more a week than the equivalent of council housing and service charges could be far higher as they were not always included as part of the rent. As too, water rates were usually charged separately whereas both were within the council rent so it could be even higher in weekly financial outputs.
There are many reviews of those who are not happy with their HAs online as well as those which are doing well but I believe most people would want to know exactly what is going on and what is involved. There is much that is not so known about and this is the information that is vitally important to every tenant. Yes you may (or may not) get your flat done up but do you really want to lose your security.
As for board members, it is very much a case of the same, if for any reason you complain too much – even when complaints are legitimate – it seems that you will fall foul of democracy according to many complainers online. Believe this or not but I would take it into account simply because there are too many people complaining. The other options I feel need to be thoroughly investigated before we make a choice as secure tenants. Councils can set up a private housing association and transfer all stock to this I believe, with tenants running the show basically. Do you want this or know much about it. Some do well but others fail miserably and it seems that not many do better than councils in running the show.
Alas, most tenants would be weighing this up against what happened over the past years where they felt they were sold out and not listened to because their estates were being sold off, no social housing built and too many property developers being called in.
Already, stock sold previously by the council to one association was then sold on to another!
Personally, I prefer to keep my security of tenure but then again, if your estate is sold off from under you, when you move, you also lose this as you will become an assured tenant.