Housing Matters was the main topic of discussion at the most recent Crossfields Tenants & Residents Association meeting. Clare Ryan (Lewisham Council) was joined by Lewisham Homes' Chief Executive Kevin Jones, and Head of Leasehold Services Sandy Canham, to explain the latest on Housing Matters and to tell the meeting how Lewisham was intending to consult residents over the coming year.
We reported in January that the council has decided to press ahead with further consultation, having already conducted "a conversation about options" with us in the last couple of months of 2012. In that survey, many people were in favour of returning management of our housing to the council (the majority of respondents were elderly) and were not at all keen on being sold off to a housing association. People were also happy to keep everything as it is, which has been read as strong approval for Lewisham Homes. 1600 surveys were returned (around 10% of properties); it was decided that the survey results were not representative, so more consultation is required.
It was also clear that no one really understood the implications of the council's favourite option: to turn Lewisham Homes into a "Resident-led housing association" that would be able to borrow the £85m required to build 250 new homes and invest in more improvements to current stock (and raise the Decent Homes standards above and beyond what they are currently able to do, including much needed external works).
Presently, Lewisham Homes is part of the Council which is unable to borrow more than £44m. If Lewisham Homes became "an independent housing provider registered with the Homes & Communities Agency" it could borrow more money. (See previous posts or Lewisham's Housing Matters website page).
This new round of consultation will consist of a team going out to talk to residents face-to-face (leaving out subletting leaseholders) with the aim of raising awareness and understanding of turning Lewisham Homes into a 'resident-led organisation' and of finding out what priorities residents have (a top priority so far has been pest control).
The team will be door-knocking between 5pm-7pm on weekdays and 9.30am-1pm on Saturdays up until the end of May. If you're not in, they'll leave a card. Some people will be phoned, and
different teams will be targeting street properties and sheltered
This time the consultation will be audited by independent tenant & leasehold advisors SOLON (not the housing association). They will be putting out information of their own, apparently.
As a resident pointed out at the TRA meeting, people may get confused by phone calls from the Housing Matters team, when they are already expecting any call from the council to be from a MITIE surveyor ringing to discuss their new kitchen, bathroom and toilet requirements as part of the Decent Homes programme (see previous post).
See also next post on Community Involvement.