Housing campaigners will picket an industry awards night in Manchester this week after calling for the event to be cancelled altogether due to widespread issues throughout the sector.
Activists will protest outside the UK Housing Awards, hosted by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute for Housing at The Point in Manchester, on Friday (25 November).
The social housing sector has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following the high-profile case of Awaab Ishak, 2, who died from exposure to mould in a housing association home managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
The Housing Ombudsman issued a record number of complaint handling failure orders against social housing landlords in the last quarter, including several to housing associations vying for awards at the industry event next week.
Almost 55,000 people signed a petition calling for the awards to be cancelled and the money used to fund the event instead put towards “helping social housing tenants and residents in desperate need”.
The petition highlights a number of housing associations which are nominated for awards at the prestigious event despite poor performance, including Hyde and Clarion.
The Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) has previously told NationalWorld that overall, around a quarter of the complaints it receives come from tenants of Clarion, the UK’s largest housing association. They also report that more complaints relating to service charges, often relating to overcharging, come from tenants of Hyde.
Suzanne Muna, secretary of SHAC said that award shows allow landlords to “purify their image and reinforce their narrative that they are a force for good, when in fact they are damaging people’s lives”.
She said: “We urge the organisers to think again about this annual event. None of the prizes are awarded to tenant and resident associations for their unsung heroic work in creating communities and keeping each other safe. Nor do tenants and residents have a say in which landlords should get the plaudits. These awards and the ceremonies that go with them are just wrong-headed.”
The ombudsman issued a rare special report into Clarion earlier this year, which revealed the extent of complaints against the association relating to damp, mould, pest management and complaints handling.
The report identified “significant concerns,” and said that the issues had “seriously impacted” residents.
These included a resident with vulnerabilities who endured delays of 15 months for necessary repair work, often going months without contact from Clarion. The same resident also suffered from leaks in the property and a rodent infestation so severe that she had to sleep on her living room sofa for months and an independent surveyor stated the property was “unfit for human habitation”.
‘A huge slap in the face’
An individual seat at the awards ceremony costs £370 plus VAT, which includes food and drink, while a table for 10 people including five bottles of wine costs £3,150 plus VAT.
A range of organisations will attend the event, including house building firms,, social housing landlords, housing officials from local authorities.
Campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa said the decision to hold the awards ceremony was “a huge slap in the face”.
Tweneboa has been a vocal campaigner against poor conditions in the social housing sector, highlighting numerous instances of disrepair and dangerous delays in maintenance work across many different landlords.
A spokesperson for Acorn, the renters union, said: "It is disgusting that housing associations with appalling track records will be swanning about at these lavish award ceremonies and patting themselves on the back, all while their tenants are suffering.
“This is nothing more than a slap in the face to the people who have to live in the substandard housing some of these associations offer. They should focus on providing decent, safe, and secure housing instead of mocking their tenants like this."