Safeguarding the health and wellbeing of residents should be the “absolute priority” for housing associations, the Chief Executive of Bradford-based Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has argued.
Lee Bloomfield was speaking after National Housing Federation Chief Executive Kate Henderson responded to a series of ITV News reports about social housing residents living in homes with damp, mould and other types of serious disrepair.
In an interview, she said the affected residents had been “let down” by being forced to live in conditions which were “just not acceptable, not only because of the levels of disrepair in these homes but also because the residents have not felt listened to.”
Mr Bloomfield, who has led MHA since January 2018, said in a time of an acute shortage of social and affordable homes, housing associations are hungry for growth to help meet this shortfall however some larger housing associations were “placing growth ahead of maintaining and improving their existing properties.”
In a statement, he said: “The ITV reports were shocking and having spoken to senior colleagues in other housing associations, I know there is a feeling of widespread revulsion across the sector about what was uncovered. It is fair to say that the majority of larger housing associations strike a balance of providing new homes whilst maintaining and improving their existing stock.
“I have long been of the view that some large housing associations have been focussed almost to the point of obsession on building up their stock portfolios at the risk of allowing the quality of their existing properties to deteriorate.
“In contrast, smaller housing associations with lower stock numbers often tend to focus their resources on organic growth and maintaining their existing stock to higher standards.
“MHA undertook a comprehensive stock condition survey in 2017 which confirmed that our more than 1,400 properties are in good condition.
“Since then, we have invested a further £2.5million in these homes including upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms.
“Our corporate strategy contains four key objectives including a steadfast commitment to looking after our existing homes.
“When we consulted with residents in Bradford and Keighley in 2019 about the association’s growth plans, they supported our desire to build new properties but not at the expense of existing homes falling to lower standards.
“The most recent residents survey, carried out in May this year, saw satisfaction levels with our repairs and maintenance service rise to 91%. That is a positive outcome, although I still want this figure to rise further.
“MHA’s determination to look after the needs of our residents is matched by many other housing associations around the country. However, cases like those highlighted on the news over recent weeks reflect badly on the sector.
“A valuable lesson would be to strike the correct balance of properly investing in current stock whilst achieving unit growth.”