The big news in housing today is the creation of a new 135,000-home housing association resulting from the merger of three housing groups: the Hyde Group, L&Q, and East Thames. It is set to be the biggest merger in housing association history with ability of building 100,000 homes over the next 10 years. The new group will be the fourth largest house builder of any kind in the UK.
Earlier this year Affinity Sutton and Circle announced their plans to merge to form an association with 125,000 homes.
And now the BIG news from BHT. Today I am announcing that ….. we are not merging and will remain a landlord of 311 homes. We will continue to manage around 200 homes in the private rented sector, and will provide specialist supported housing for a further 300 people, as well as our day centre, advice centres and a range of other support services.
We won’t ever be the house builder for the nation, nor are we able to achieve efficiencies from having a call centre (several hundred miles away from their tenants), but we do offer something that the big boys can’t. BHT’s housing staff know all of our tenants. We know when they are not well, when they have difficulties, and they can always pop in to have a chat with a housing officer that they know by name.
Merger is all the rage but I wonder whether size really matters. Yes, the new mega group will build homes, but who will they be for, and what will the rents be? Housing associations were originally created to meet the needs of local people. They were responding to specific need and ensured that they provided good quality homes and could respond to the circumstances of their tenants. Will these mega groups have tenants at the core of everything they do? I hope so, but I do have my doubts.