Radio: BBC lets housing associations off the hook

Alex Forbes, South West London Socialist Party

File On Four, aired on BBC Radio 4 on 22 March, investigated allegations of degrading treatment by social housing providers, and was a great exposé of issues facing housing association tenants. One report was of sewage running through a flat. The show captured tenants’ feelings of frustration and powerlessness. One housing association only responded to complaints after the BBC investigated for the programme.

It was however a very frustrating programme. The BBC allowed the National Housing Federation (NHF)’s statements to go completely unchallenged, such as that “these situations effect a tiny minority of tenants”. The NHF, representing housing associations, made loads of false claims and tenants commented later that tenants’ own rebuttals of those claims were not put out on the programme.

Others were irritated by the statement: “Tenants complaints get lost in the system”, and feeling strongly that housing associations actually deliberately ignore complaints and victimise tenants who make them. Some housing associations also refuse to disclose the usage and justification of service charges, with tenants left wondering what their rent and service charges are even paying for, with repairs reduced to as little as once every seven years.

Housing association Notting Hill Genesis has a surplus of £447 million for 2020-21 which was enough to maintain its existing properties. But the housing associations just used the BBC programme as a platform to hustle the government for more investment, despite their considerable budget surpluses!

Peabody owns many derelict sites that it is doing nothing with, but at the same time is proposing to redevelop the occupied homes of furious former tenants of Bexley Council from the Lesnes Estate in London – homes which Peabody was handed during the New Labour years.

Peabody’s actions against former council tenants, who don’t wish to move or take out mortgages to stay in their area, seem a far cry from the almshouses roots of Peabody over a century ago!