DIsle of Dogs – Housing Association sacks the Board

Residents of four London Borough of Tower Hamlets estates on the Isle of Dogs were transferred to Island Homes, a new Housing Association, in 2005. The new HA was supposed to be ‘resident led’, with eight members of the Board. It was to deliver services locally, through local offices, with the estate resident organisations having management agreements with the Board governing services on each estate.

This ‘model’ was set out in the offer document which a majority of tenants voted for to enable the transfer to take place. Because it was a new HA it was to be ‘overseen’ by Toynbee Housing Association, which was given three seats on the Board and was to provide management services. This set up was agreed by Tower Hamlets Council, the Housing Corporation and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

According to Jenny Fisher, Chair of the ‘Four Estates steering committee’, the problems began when Toynbee “proved to be utterly useless”. The Audit Commission inspected Toynbee after the ballot but before the transfer document was signed.

To supposedly deal with its poor Audit report, Toynbee merged with Community Housing (an association based mainly in North London, with (according to Jenny Fisher “a long and shameful history of trampling on tenants’ rights”) to form One Housing Group. Hence the tenants’ were taken over by an HA which they had not voted for.

Island Homes was offered no choice but to join OHG, which began to impose new structures and standards on its three constituent Housing Associations. When the resident-led Island Homes Board refused to go along with these changes, OHG sacked the Board and carried on regardless. Jenny Fisher says “service standards have plummeted, tenant involvement has all but ended and tenant are furious”.

They have demanded that Tower hamlets Council help to restore the structures which tenants voted on. The Council approached the Housing Minister, who asked the Tenant Services Authority to see that the offer document was restored. However, the law gives tenants no rights where stock transfer goes wrong. So far OHG has refused to comply.

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