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Protest called amid homes loss fears after housing associations merger plan announced

Tenants and resident from Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing oppose the plan, which would create one of the country's largest housing associations

Tim Baster (centre) hands in a letter to Notting Hill Housing, objecting to its merger with Genesis Housing(Image: UGC TMS)

Tenants and residents from two housing associations have vehemently opposed a plan to merge at a public meeting.

They say the proposal put forward by Notting Hill Housing (NHH) and Genesis Housing puts homes at risk, and have handed in a letter of objection ahead of a planned protest.

The housing associations deal was agreed in principal to merge last month, in a move that would create one of the country’s largest housing associations.

Among several benefits, this will include the building of more homes, NHH said.

But the proposals were rejected on Wednesday (August 16) at a meeting held for people living in their buildings, held at Westbourne Grove Church in Notting Hill .

They are worried that high-value property will be sold off, with residents forced out and the number of homes available for those who need it reduced.

Concerned groups held a protest outside NHH offices in Sussex Place, Hammersmith, between 5pm and 6pm on Monday (August 21), and earlier in the day handed in a letter of objection to chief executive Kate Davies .

Under a merger, the new Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) organisation will have 54,000 homes across London and 64,000 across London and the South East.

Linde Carr, resident board member at Notting Hill Housing, Elizabeth Froude, deputy chief executive designate, Notting Hill Genesis; Neil Hadden, Genesis chief executive, Kate Davies, chief executive designate, Notting Hill Genesis, and Dipesh Shah, chair designate of Notting Hill Genesis(Image: UGC TMS)

The new organisation will serve a total of 170,000 residents and be the largest provider of shared ownership tenure in the country.

It says both groups were founded in different forms in the 1960s in west London with the with the aim of housing the working poor and giving them a secure home with which to build their future.

While both evolved over time, building significant commercial interests and merging with others, it says its core purpose, to provide quality homes to low income households across London and beyond, remains unchanged.

But Gaynor Williams, one of the organisers of the residents’ meeting, said not one of the 100-odd people crammed into the hall supported the plan.

She said: “Our fear is that housing associations are being hijacked by commercial interests. We fear the loss of homes and break-up of our community.”

She said there were concerns that housing association properties in expensive central London areas will be sold off, and said there are examples where properties are being left empty or rent increased by as much as 60% to force out tenants.

And she said affordable housing wasn’t affordable: “This ‘affordable’ badge is not affordable for ordinary people on ordinary salaries. It seems to be that the marketeers have stepped in and turned words that once meant something into total garbage.

“People that aren’t terribly well-off are being forced out.”

A spokesperson for NHH moved to allay fears, acknowledging the concerns of residents.

“At Notting Hill Housing, as with Genesis Housing Association, we feel that this merger will bring great benefits to all involved,” he said.

“The combined entity will have 54,000 homes across London and we see that as a great strength.

“We have no desire to sell-off homes in large numbers in any section of London, including our heartland of west London.

“Tenancies and leases will be unchanged and residents will have the same rights they do now on issues such as Right to Buy and succession arrangements.”

And he said the merger will create more homes: “Together we will create 400 extra homes every year than we would have been able to separately.

“Both Notting Hill Housing and Genesis were formed to provide homes for low-income households in London and the south east and that commitment will be at the core of Notting Hill Genesis’ work.”

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