Scrutiny of housing associations (also known as Registered Social Landlords (RSLS)) is extremely limited – with Councillors lacking the power to intervene as they can with council housing departments. All too often, housing associations fail to reply to enquiries within acceptable timescales or respond inadequately to residents concerns. Ultimately, all RSLs are regulated by a government agency and not local councils – but most residents don’t know this and we still receive large amounts of casework about problems with housing association properties, especially the large number of flats they own in converted houses on streets throughout the Ward.
The St Martin’s Tenants and Residents Association have campaigned for several years to get the housing associations that own the estate to support residents experiencing damp problems in their homes. They sought agreement that Lambeth would use its powers under environmental laws to enforce housing standards by raising a deputation to a Full Council meeting in 2019. Last year we wrote about this campaign and how with support from us as Ward Councillors, Lambeth Council had intervened to appoint an independent surveyor to assess the problems on the estate in 2020.
In January 2021 Lambeth Council took further action by writing to all three housing associations instigating legal action to make residents homes safer. This followed the publication of the independent surveyors report that was highly critical of the RSLs and identified their use of “victim shaming” by blaming residents for the damp in their homes rather that structural issues as particularly offensive. As local Councillors we are proud to have worked with the TRA to achieve this – however we remain aware of the need for continued pressure for the housing associations to make the homes fit for habitation.