Below is an edited extract from the Social Housing Action Campaign (Shac). You can read the full statement at shacaction.org.
We won. The UK Housing Awards has been cancelled.
It only took 54,000 signatures on a petition by the Shac, and a threatened mass mobilisation to picket and protest the event. The annual UK Housing Awards ceremony is a lavish self-congratulatory event for the executives of housing associations and council housing departments.
This year’s event was to be held during the worst cost-of-living crisis in 40 years. But attendees pay anything between £370 and £2,700 to attend. They were to be treated to a lavish dinner, wine, and entertainment.
Among the nominees was Hyde, the housing association most frequently reported to Shac for service-charge abuse. It regularly charges for services that are extortionate, non-existent, or not delivered. And fails to act when inaccuracies are highlighted.
L&Q was named and shamed by ITV Housing Stories for subjecting tenants to prolonged, appalling housing conditions. Tenants and residents, organised by Shac, have been forced to withhold service charge payments just to get heard by their landlord. Their presence among the nominees was a surprise, except that L&Q’s director of finance is one of the judges.
Add scandal-prone Clarion. The UK’s biggest housing association was out of action for almost five months. It claimed it was unable to provide access to services because of a cyber attack.
It received three ‘severe maladministration’ judgements from the housing ombudsman in as many months. Its decade-long, deliberate, managed decline of the Eastfields estate featured on ITV.
What have housing associations – holding £4 billion reserves – done to support struggling tenants and residents? They only have a record of failure.
Housing associations were more likely than councils and private landlords to evict through the courts. As more people fall into rent arrears, eviction will be the penalty that too many people pay for being unable to afford their home through no fault of their own.
There is no reason for housing associations to self-congratulate. The financial struggles that people face give plenty of reasons to cancel this extravaganza.
The money spent on this event would be far better targeted towards helping people in desperate need of safe, secure, affordable housing. Opposition showed a new groundswell of anger at the gap between wealthy, pampered executives, and the daily struggles that people face.