In the past year Genesis Housing Association has imposed rent increases of commonly over 50% on secure tenants with pre-1989 tenancies. These are mostly pensioners on fixed incomes. Their policy is causing a huge amount of anxiety and distress for these older tenants, who have been forced to ransack their pension savings or been pushed on to housing benefit. Other tenants are now unable to retire as planned because they cannot afford their increased rent if they do so.
There is a misconception that government rent caps apply to all long term housing association tenancies. However, secure tenants have their rents set by the Rent Officer from the Valuation Officer Agency, whereby increases are subject to the ‘Maximum Fair Rent Order 1999′, of not more than RPI plus 5%; a formula that incidentally means that within 15 years current ‘fair’ rents double in real terms (i.e. taking out the effects of inflation).
HAs in the past, acting in their remit as social landlords, have limited secure tenants’ rent increases to the same government rent caps that assured (post-1989) tenants are subject to. In 2016 George Osborne instigated a rent cap on assured tenancies of minus 1% per annum to run until 2020, to lessen the benefits bill.
Genesis no longer acts like a social landlord – its CEO announced in 2015 that they would no longer build social housing. So, faced with the loss of income that the rent cap introduced, decided to drive up secure tenants’ rents to the maximum they can legally charge in one go. This is part of a profit-driven strategy to maximise their income as leverage to finance housebuilding at full market rates.
Genesis have refused to give Genesis Residents (https://www.facebook.com/ genesisaction) any information in support of their policy nor will they negotiate with tenants. And Genesis is involved, against tenants’ wishes across the board and without consultation, in the now notorious merger with Notting Hill Housing, another housing association pushing elderly secure tenants’ rents steeply up.