March 2021 Newsletter

We hope you are all keeping well in these difficult times and, like us, are looking forward, hopefully, to the lifting of restrictions and being able to enjoy warmer spring weather. In spite of the present covid restrictions, your committee has been working hard on your behalf on a number of issues. We summarise some of these issues, (primarily rents, repairs and sales) which, unfortunately, are once again dominated by the shortcomings of Peabody and Axis, in this shortened newsletter.

SALE OF HOUSES AND RENTS – Nik Wood has raised the following points in a letter to Peabody CEO Brendan Sarsfield. Peabody continues to sell houses at an alarming rate thereby reducing the rental stock available to key workers, as was their original designation. On our Victoria Park Estate alone several homes have, over recent times, been sold to absentee landlords or investors, both of whom make tidy profits from what should be classed as social housing. Peabody claim that this is necessary to subsidise the building of new homes but we are contesting this on the grounds that grants, planning permission and Charity Commission rules all assume that new house building is self-financing over the rental period. Rents continue to rise at 3.5% p.a. which is taking the monthly cost above the reach of many potential residents, or which force others into receiving housing benefit, meaning that cash-strapped councils are, in effect, subsidising Peabody. The current rent plan expires in March 2022 and is due to be reviewed this year. Peabody state that “we will engage with residents once this has happened.”
You’ll see yet again that Peabody thinks it is OK to take its decision and to call that telling us afterwards constitutes “engagement”. We plan to disabuse them of this misconception of our role in rent setting.

REPAIRS – Plumbing repairs have long been the bane of the lives of many tenants. There is an extensive catalogue from our estate of cancelled appointments and “no shows” for confirmed appointments. Recently, despite the winter cold and the need for decent sanitation during a pandemic, your association felt the need to take up two serious plumbing issues on behalf of a family with a toddler and a senior resident with health problems.
To summarise briefly, one resident was left without a shower and other facilities and the other without a bath and hot water for a while and, most disgracefully, without a flushing toilet for weeks. Appointments were postponed or missed, seemingly without regard for the emergency situations in which the residents found themselves.
Eventually, after phone calls and emails, complaints were copied to Peabody CEO Brendan Sarsfield and Lord Bob Kerslake, Chair of the Peabody Board (cc’d also to our councillors and MP) and as a result, ‘emergency action’ was taken and the situations rectified. What we would like to know is, why should residents not expect and receive this standard of service as a right and as the norm rather than after numerous delays and complaints?
What we would recommend is that if you have an unresolved repair/problem and you have worried the Repair Line (0800 022 4040) or filled in the form on the website and had no joy, then ask for Peabody’s ‘Chase Team’ and if still negative ask for the Complaints Team. If no satisfaction email Joannie Andrews – (phone 0208 985 2175) with an outline of the problem and one of the committee will try to help.
Your Association has had to take up these cases because the repairs reporting system simply isn’t working and there is no system for getting hold of people at Peabody who can get things done. Don’t let them ignore you. When all else fails, get in touch with us and we’ll help you through the minefield of Peabody’s “customer service”.

Peabody have informed us that, finally, they have approval to proceed with the development. Martyn Bullar wrote;- “….we are currently waiting for the contractor to sign the contract and commence works. At present the contractor is proposing that works on site will begin by the end of May 2021 at the latest, however exact dates are still in discussion. We are hoping to issue a letter to the residents along Gore Road to inform them of this, as well as inviting residents to attend a virtual ‘meet the contractor’ meeting to be held next month”.
Your chair has requested that, meanwhile, railings should be put around the garages to stop them being used as a toilet and rubbish being dumped. Further information will be sent to residents concerned by mail and posted on notice boards and at the community centre.

71,72, 73 and 80 GORE ROAD
As is Peabody’s way, because they charge too much for big family homes, they claim they have to break those that fall vacant up into smaller flats. That’s what they’re doing to these four homes which have become empty. For once a delay wasn’t their fault. The planning applications that conservation area status requires them to get were victims of the hack of Hackney Council’s computer. But now they hope to be under way.
One of the works is to make all the flats self-contained and we’ve asked about the fire resistance, insulation and other aspects of the works. Replies have been delayed by the departure of all the staff who have Victoria Park experience but we now have as contact.
The works will be organised from 71 Gore Road where contractors, Vinci, will be based. We have been promised more contact details and will be chasing to make sure working practices are OK. After a bit of a ‘nag’ they’ve cut back the overgrown shrubbery but we need to check the back gardens for rats.

As a result of Peabody ‘consultations’ with community associations, as requested, your chair put forward the following three major issues with which estate residents have problems.

  1. Rent Levels and Sales
    Victoria Park is not Social Housing and the rents you set are at levels which are a deterrent to the key workers for whom our homes are intended. We know of employed people in them who face having to use food banks.
    The income you are getting from these tenancies must be such that your policy of selling off homes through auctions cannot be justified. This applies to existing houses on our estate and to the proposed development of new ones here.
    Taken together these two policies give the members of my Association serious doubt as to the charitable purpose and housing association ethos of what appears to be becoming an increasingly hard-nosed property developer.
  2. Repairs and Maintenance
    This month’s Inside Housing records that you claim to have spent on average £2,772 per property in 2020 on these two items.
    With regard to repairs, we have numerous complaints about the organisation and standard of works. For instance, we currently have two tenants with long term damp, plumbing and hot water supply problems at the height of a contagion where hygiene is at a premium.
    With regard to maintenance we have had three major programmes of works, all of which were started without any consultation with tenants and all of which raised repeated concerns about the organisation and quality of the works.
  3. Communications
    You have commanded that all communications from us should go through the Customer Service Call Centre Hub in Pitsea. We have endless examples of that unit not having the necessary information to do the job. Getting put through to the person who can deal with your call is consistently difficult.
    Communications from you are haphazard and contradictory, particularly regarding communal matters which are not the responsibility of individual tenants. The role of Neighbourhood Management is unclear as is the role of other Peabody staff involved with management of our estate.
    Joannie Andrews,
    Chair, Victoria Park Community Association

VICTORIA PARK COMMUNITY CENTRE Your Community Centre is still closed, but we have just heard from Peabody as to the measures required/circumstances conditional for us to open it later in the year. We will of course keep you posted.
The free library/book swap scheme outside the centre is still operating so please continue to make use of it. We are also lending out jigsaw puzzles. Please contact Phil (07816830509) or Rosie (07969305497).
Updated information on local food banks and food hubs has been posted on our notice boards and the windows of the centre. Please check there for those details and other up to date information.

OBITUARIES We are sorry to report that we have lost two former committee members. Ivy Garrett, who died just before Christmas, did a very good job in representing the interests of the residents of Robinson Road many years ago. Maureen Colquhoun, who used to live in Vicar’s Close, died in February. She was a very forthright committee member of the Crown Residents’ Association (as it was then). She was an MP and campaigned vigorously for women’s and gay rights.

Please note that, if you have not paid your annual subscription to the Victoria Park Community Association, it is now due. Please make your payment (£2 per household) to Mike Lordan, Treasurer and put it in the letterbox at the Community Centre 5 Gore Road E9 7HR. Please ensure that your name and household address is included, with this slip;-