Rushanara Ali MP raises doubts over Circle Housing Association merger after litany of complaints

Residents carrying umbrellas indoors because of leaking ceilings, a heavy heater falling off a wall near small children playing on the floor, lifts breaking down on a weekly basis, and 30 flats left without light for weeks. These are the ‘life-threatening’ and ‘shoddy’ repair and maintenance services of the Circle Housing Group in Tower Hamlets.

Having received a large number of complaints over a number of years from social housing residents of Circle Housing Group, Rushanara raised serious concerns about the proposed merger between Circle Housing Group and Affinity Sutton last night in the House of Commons.

If the proposed merger goes ahead, one of the largest housing associations in Europe will be created. Nearly half a million people across London will soon become tenants of this new social landlord, which will own and run more than 127,000 properties.

Holding an adjournment debate on the issue, Rushanara called on the Minister for Housing, Planning, and London, Gavin Barwell MP to strengthen the government’s regulation of housing associations and ensure local accountability and control is not further eroded.

Rushanara asked the Minister for an assurance that more will be done to implement more robust systems to process complaints, adjudicate in disputes and provide redress quickly when things go wrong. Rushanara called for a strengthening of the government’s regulation of Housing Associations.

Rushanara said:

“Residents are rightly concerned that the merger and the centralisation of services, including repairs and maintenance, will see services deteriorate even further.”

“One of my constituents called the Circle Housing office 40 times over a three-month period to fix leaks that left them using an umbrella when using the toilet. Another of my constituents, who was eight months pregnant, slipped on water leaking from her toilet, which she had reported on 88 occasions”

“Hard-working housing associations in my constituency and up and down the country provide affordable, quality rented and shared ownership accommodation, and are at their best ones when anchored in their communities. They are also a critical part of the solution to Britain’s housing crisis. But a trend towards bigger, more remote and less accountable housing associations with multi-million pound turnovers and substantial assets and reserves behaving like companies are not serving their communities. It is right and proper that we hold them to account.”

“What we have seen is a complete failure to be locally accountable, with locally accountable board membership having been cast aside.”

“The Government should be empowering regulators, not making them even more toothless and unable to act and therefore inept at standing up for the very people whom they should be serving.”