The questions below are those raised most frequently by residents. They were first published in July 2017 when we announced our intention to merge, and updated at the end of October to include further queries raised as part of our consultation work to date. They have been further updated in early December to reflect new questions raised during open sessions and smaller meetings with residents.
About the merger
We believe that we can achieve more together than we could apart.
We want to build more homes – in London and the south east.
As a new, combined organisation, we will have greater financial strength to deliver that aim. We will invest in our social purpose: to build quality, affordable homes in thriving communities, to provide modern and valued services, and to create amazing places.
For residents like you and your neighbours, the merger will provide a big opportunity for us to raise service standards, do more for you with more homes available in our stock, and increase value for money.
We want to prioritise modernising and automating services to offer you more choice and make it easier for you to access services and information with and from us. You will still be able to talk directly to a member of staff if that is what you prefer.
Why merge with Genesis?
We believe we’re a good match – we have a lot in common.
We were both founded in the 1960s in west London by local people who shared a similar vision – to house west London’s working poor, providing them with a home from which to build themselves and their families a more secure future.
Although we’ve both evolved with the times, our core purpose as housing associations has remained the same throughout: to provide homes for low-income households in London and the south east.
Today, we employ similar numbers of people and own and manage a similar amount of homes.
We are both involved in major regeneration projects, strengthening our commitment to developing mixed communities.
We are similar in outlook, areas of operations and values.
When will this happen?
We are aiming to formally merge in the early part of 2018, but work to truly integrate our services will continue beyond the formal merger and is expected to take about two years
We want to get everything right and consult as widely as we can: with our shareholders (who are a mixture of former or existing residents, former colleagues, and founder members of our original organisations, rather than corporate shareholders), our stakeholders (such as Members of Parliament, local authorities and our funders), our colleagues, and, most importantly, with you.
We wrote to all of our residents in late October 2017 to update them on our proposals and about the next steps – including consultation arrangements.
The merger process could stop at any time before the final merger is approved, but our two respective executive teams and Boards have been working together to try and identify any issues before problems arise.
What will the new organisation be called?
The new organisation will be known as Notting Hill Genesis.
Will there be a new logo?
Yes, there will be a new logo for the new organisation. This is being developed by our in-house communications teams and will start to be used once the new organisation comes formally into existence.
What’s happening now?
Between now and formally approving the merger, we need to do several key things, alongside consulting with you, our residents. These are:
• Continue talking to our staff, listening to their views and ideas, as well as any concerns
• Meet with our shareholders and keep them informed about the merger
• Talk to our funders, regulators and ratings agencies
What happens after the two organisations merge to become one?
In the short-term customers will notice very little difference.
Following the formal merger, residents who are currently tenants or leaseholders with either Notting Hill Housing Trust or Genesis Housing Association will have a new landlord – Notting Hill Genesis. If you are a tenant or leaseholder of any of our subsidiaries (Notting Hill Home Ownership Ltd, Folio London Ltd and so on), your landlord will not change.
An integration programme, which we expect to take about two years, will follow the formal merger. Neither the change of landlord nor the integration process will impact you detrimentally – we will continue to provide high standards of customer service throughout.
Any changes that are needed will be made as seamlessly as we can. Our focus will be on maintaining and improving customer service.
There will need to be discussion and negotiation on what the culture of the new organisation will be, how to deliver services and what standards to adopt.
By the end of the two years we will have a new organisation that will be neither Notting Hill Housing nor Genesis, but a fully integrated, new organisation, which offers the best of both.
Will there be another merger after this?
There are currently no plans to merge with another organisation once Notting Hill and Genesis come together. There may well be more mergers in the future, but this is not yet known.
Why do housing associations continue to get bigger? We’re worried services will get worse.
The reason for getting larger is to achieve greater efficiency through economies of scale. As a larger organisation, we will be able to make more savings that will allow us to build more homes that are desperately needed, especially in London. Notting Hill and Genesis want to do more to tackle this issue. Merging will also help us invest more in improving and maintaining our existing homes and services for residents.
We fundamentally believe in providing a local service to our residents. We know from talking to you just how important local knowledge and a local connection with the communities we serve are. We will ensure that a local focus is not lost and that levels of service remain high.
What challenges will the new organisation face?
There will be some challenges that we will need to overcome as a new organisation, not least to create a new organisational structure. We will be fully involving colleagues in this process and we are already encouraging teams to jointly discuss and share what they are currently working on. We will be looking at what works best in each organisation to create something better that works for everyone.
Will my rent stay the same?
Your rent and service charges will not change as a result of this merger: any increases/decreases in rent and service charges will be in line with your agreement or lease.
Please continue to pay your rent and service charges just as you do now.
Will I need to move home?
You will not be asked to move home as a result of the merger.
Does this mean that I will be given a new tenancy agreement or lease?
Your tenancy or lease agreement will stay the same and you will have the same rights as you do now, including issues such as right to buy and succession arrangements.
What about secure tenancies?
If you’re already a secure tenant, your terms will remain the same.
As a result of recent Government legislation, housing associations are no longer allowed to offer secure tenancies, so we offer most new tenants fixed-term tenancies with a length of five years. In practice, the majority of our tenancies are assured tenancies.
The consultation process
When will the consultation process end? Will there be a response to residents?
The formal consultation ended on 6 December for Notting Hill residents and 8 December for Genesis residents. All feedback was collated for a report which went to the boards of both organisations in December 2017. A summary of the feedback is available here.
We’re also using your feedback to help shape the resident promise, a series of commitments that the new organisation will work towards to improve our services to residents.
Why don’t residents get to vote on the merger?
In common with many organisations, it is the Board that takes the decision on major strategy issues that affect how we are run.
The voice of our customers – residents, care and support service users and others – is crucial and we want to hear from as many of you as possible to help shape and inform our proposals. The Boards of both Genesis and NHH will be very much taking into account your views as residents as they take the decision on whether to merge.
We must be able to demonstrate that we have consulted widely and sought the views of our stakeholders, including residents. Even without that requirement, both NHH and Genesis believe it is right that we seek residents’ views – and we want as many of you to do that as possible. That is why we have set up the various consultation mechanisms, detailed in this document.
Who are the Genesis and Notting Hill Housing shareholders we hear about?
Both Genesis and Notting Hill Housing are housing associations. Both are charitable organisations under the law – they are not private organisations with corporate shareholders who have invested in our organisations for a financial return.
Our shareholders are past and present residents, former colleagues, former Board members and founders of some of our legacy organisations. They are people with a long-standing commitment to our organisations. They are not shareholders for financial gain, as happens in the corporate sector, but as guardians of the association. They have a right to be consulted about the development and future shape of the organisation and they must be consulted about any proposed changes to the constitution or rules of the association.
As we plan to combine our two organisations using a formal process known as amalgamation, our respective shareholders will need to vote on whether they agree to the proposal and the way in which we plan to achieve our merger. Without shareholder consent, the merger cannot proceed.
How are they appointed and how do I become one?
Both Genesis and Notting Hill Housing shareholders are appointed by their respective Boards, who consider applications in light of their shareholder policies. These seek to maintain a balance of views and a broad, diverse shareholder base. Applications to become a shareholder are managed by the Group Secretaries at both organisations.
What will shareholders gain as a result of the merger?
Shareholders of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis do not have a financial stake in these housing associations, so will not stand to gain anything financially as a result of the merger.
I am an ‘involved resident’. What does this mean for me?
Resident involvement and engagement will be critical to our success, not just during the partnership process, but beyond.
We will work with you to design the resident involvement approach for the new organisation. The two organisations will learn from each others’ methods of engagement with the aim of bringing together the best of both
Repairs and services
What are the benefits to residents?
For residents, the merger will provide opportunities for us to raise our standards and improve service delivery.
We have already started work to create a ‘resident promise’, focusing on the six key themes that you’ve told us matter to you:
- Improving our repairs service
- Making better use of digital platforms and new technology to develop our services
- Providing you with more opportunities to move home if you want to
- Creating genuine resident involvement opportunities
- Maintaining a personalised service for those of you who want and need one
- Offering you greater training and employment opportunities
- Ensuring value for money and transparency around service charges
You can find out more about the development of the resident promise here.
In addition, we will have more buying power as a larger organisation. That means we can buy more things cheaper and provide better value for money.
Will repairs arrangements and contractors remain the same?
For the time being, all existing arrangements will continue just as they do now. Over the next few months and years, as specific contracts end, we’ll need either to reappoint existing contractors on new terms, or appoint new suppliers.
There will be no immediate change to the companies who carry out repairs though, so you’ll continue to see the same colleagues as you have before. We’ll let you know if that position changes.
We’ll be looking at the most effective repairs service for the new organisation and will keep you informed. We know this is a top priority for many of our customers. That makes it a top priority for us.
Will how I report a repair change?
For the time being, there will be no change to existing arrangements.
Notting Hill Housing residents should continue to report repairs to your housing officer or property management officer as you do now. If we propose to change these arrangements in future, we’ll let you know with plenty of notice.
What do you mean by ‘digital services’? Will I still be able to talk to my housing officer?
We aim to provide a range of digital services that will support residents to contact us in the way which suits them. These could include using our app or website to log repairs, make a complaint, pay rent/service charges and more. Those who prefer not to use digital methods to contact us or receive services will of course still be able to speak to a member of staff over the phone or face to face.
Will the staff I see now change?
For now, you’ll continue to see the same people you do now – whether that’s a housing officer, property management officer, neighbourhood manager, neighbourhood assistant or care and support staff.
What does this mean if I’m a customer who receives a care or support service?
Your care service will continue as it does now. The local authority has contracted us to provide the service and the merger will not affect this.
Will the merger improve the quality of local services?
We believe so, yes. At the heart of our commitment to new digital services is the objective of freeing up our people to spend more time on the issues where you need the most support. These include resolving problems and complaints, ensuring the area you live in is in a good and safe condition, and listening to and acting on resident feedback.
Will programmes and initiatives such as volunteering, training and employment support continue?
Yes. These programmes will continue to run as usual.
Will there be fewer empty properties? What is current void performance?
At Notting Hill Housing, our current level of void (empty) property stands at 1.3% or 289 properties. We aim to re-let these within 21 days of them becoming void. Our current performance is just under 24 days on average.
Genesis currently has 45 (General Needs) properties empty. The average void turnaround is 28.7 days against a target of 27 days.
What are your policies on anti-social behavior and harassment? What steps do you take to stop these issues happening?
Both organisations are committed to tackling anti-social behaviour, and work in line with antisocial behaviour policies. More information about this can be found on our websites.
In Notting Hill Housing, the housing officer or property management officer is the point of contact for reporting any issues. Genesis has an anti-social behaviour team in place to deal with individual issues. We both work closely with other agencies such as local safer neighbourhoods teams and relevant local authorities to tackle particular issues in communities.
Is there a small estate improvement budget that residents can bid for?
Genesis has a budget called the ‘Small Minor Improvements Budget’ (SMIB) which neighbourhood managers and other staff can bid for in partnership with residents. The SMIB budget is for one-off improvement costs to improve safety and security and/or customer satisfaction. A panel of residents considers bids and decides the awards that are made.
Notting Hill Housing also has an estate improvement budget. Bids for one-off projects are made by housing officers or resident monitors and considered by the regional heads.
Will the new organisation manage its own developments or use management companies?
A larger organisation should mean that we are better able to manage and monitor the service delivered by any management companies we use. The merger will also be an opportunity to review these arrangements, over time.
Genesis Housing Association
What is the relationship between Genesis and Capita?
Genesis signed a contract with Capita in February 2014 to provide professional services, (mainly linked to the professions needed to support a development programme, such as employer’s agents and cost consultants) following a full procurement process. This was an opportunity to consolidate the supply chain for these services from around 80 different providers previously and allow us to reduce costs.
Is it true that Genesis proposed a 92% reduction in social rented housing units on the Grahame Park estate and that the London Mayor had to step in to stop it?
No. The figure of 92% came from a GLA consultation response to our current planning application, which proposes 60% affordable rent tenures. The letter didn’t factor in some of the affordable homes within the proposal and the existing social homes already provided through the regeneration. We have been in close dialogue with the GLA and a lot of work has gone in alongside LB Barnet Council to address initial concerns.
All but 141 social rented homes across Grahame Park will have been provided by the last phase of Plot 12 in our current application and we are confident that the total number will be increased in the further phases of regeneration at Grahame Park. This number is in the planning application report that was approved by Barnet Council on 23 November but has been turned down by the Mayor of London. Genesis are now speaking to the GLA about the plans and remain committed to providing more and better homes at Grahame Park.
Notting Hill Housing
How many Victorian properties has Notting Hill Housing sold? Is it true that many of the original trust homes have been sold to private developers?
Notting Hill Housing has sold 84 rented properties in the last five years. We have used the income generated from the sale of small (one bed and bedsit) units in high value areas to fund the purchase of six times as many family homes (533) in cheaper outer London boroughs.
Is it true that residents who lost their home in the Grenfell Tower fire were only offered new tenancies with NHH on affordable rent and fixed term basis?
In the immediate aftermath of the fire we offered the local council all available properties in the area for use as temporary accommodation. We have been working with the borough to offer protected rents and tenancy terms to those being rehoused so that they are not disadvantaged.
What impact will the merger have on housing co-ops?
The decision to merge will not have any impact on housing co-ops. We have met separately with their representatives to offer reassurance about this.
Social and affordable housing
Will you still build social housing?
Yes. This is one of the major reasons for bringing our two organisations together. Both Notting Hill Housing and Genesis currently build social housing and we will continue to do so in future.
We are committed to providing affordable housing. Funding is scarce at the moment but affordable rents are still set at 65-70% of the market rate (affordable rents can be charged at up to 80% of the market rate). The merger will put us in a position where we can build more social housing. When we need to sell any homes we currently own, it means we can buy or build more with the income generated.
Will the merger mean more affordable homes?
Both Genesis and Notting Hill Housing have a history and continued commitment to delivering new affordable homes. In the recent past Government policy has not supported delivery of new affordable (particularly social rented) homes. Both organisations campaigned for this to change. At the same time, in a very difficult financial climate with no public funding and a massive shortage of housing in London we tried to maintain delivery of new homes.
The good news is that we are both now strategic partners with the Greater London Authority (GLA). This means that Genesis will deliver more than 2,400 homes over the next four years of which 60% will be affordable homes, including more than 600 either social rent or London affordable rent homes – London affordable rent is a new GLA product, which aims to mirror social rent. Notting Hill Housing’s partnership with the GLA will deliver 8,000 homes up to 2022. At least 60% of these will be affordable, including more than 1,800 social or London Affordable Rent homes.
As a merged organisation, we will be the second biggest developer of affordable homes, which will give us influence over Government policy to provide more investment in affordable and social homes. We will work with our residents and partners to push this agenda. This is a key reason for the proposed merger.
What has been your rate of conversion from social rent to affordable rent over the last few years?
Between 2014 and 2016, Notting Hill Housing and Genesis together converted 1,322 homes from social rent to affordable rent. We have had to do this because the conversion of homes to affordable rent when they become available for reletting has been a requirement of government grant funding since 2011.
How many social rented properties has each organisation sold in the last couple of years?
Genesis disposed of 546 social rented properties between 2013/14 and 2015/16. Of these, 332 were sold to another provider for continued use as social housing. In the last five years, Genesis has delivered more than 3,000 new mixed tenure homes, nearly a third of which are social rented homes (with a further 685 for affordable rent and shared ownership).
Notting Hill Housing has disposed of 255 social rented properties between 2013/14 and 2016/17. The income was used to fund the purchase of 533 new homes for affordable rent. We have built 1,057 new social rented units over the last five years as well as having acquired 455 social rent units transferred from another housing association. We have also built a further 2,126 units for low cost home ownership.
How do social housing rents compare with affordable housing rents for both organisations?
For Genesis, the average social rent for a one- bedroom property is £115.34 per week, and £146.97 for a two- bedroom property. The average affordable rent for a one- bedroom property is £154.80, and £164.44 for a two- bedroom property.
For Notting Hill Housing, the average social rent for a one- bedroom property is £126.14 per week, and £145.25 for a two- bedroom property. The average affordable rent for a one- bedroom property is £193.61, and £213.54 for a two- bedroom property.
What are your development plans as a joint organisation?
Notting Hill Housing has plans to build 7,352 homes in the next five years, 909 of which will be social rented homes, with 996 being affordable rent.
Genesis has plans to build 3,612 homes in the next five years, 215 of which will be social rented homes, and 710 affordable rent.
Development programmes for the two organisations will remain intact, with an additional 400 homes added to later years. The starting point for the plan was the combination of the long-term plans of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis. The merger means we can deliver more homes and, importantly, proportionally more affordable rent and social rent homes.
Why do you need to develop more housing? Why not look after the stock you already have?
The Government aim for one million new homes to be delivered by 2020. As a large housing association we have a role to play in the delivery of this. The need for more affordable housing (social and affordable rent, shared ownership, etc.) is widely recognised. The merger will mean we have more buying power, can build more and be more efficient with how we organise ourselves. We will re-invest the savings generated in new and existing homes and services.
Why carry out regeneration schemes?
We work with local authorities to create new homes to meet local housing need and to invest in and improve neighbourhoods. Regeneration is about creating new services as well as places to live for existing as well as new residents. Examples of schemes being undertaken by Genesis include: Grahame Park in Barnet, Mildmay and Woodberry Down in Hackney and coming soon, a major project at Old Oak Common in Brent. At Notting Hill Housing, we are working on a major regeneration scheme on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark.
Genesis are said to be heavily in debt. What impact will this have on the merged group? Will both organisations settle debts before merging? Will the two organisations face more debt once merged?
Housing associations borrow in order to fund development. Loans are raised against the value of the assets (housing stock) and this activity is subject to regulation by Government to ensure that social housing assets are not put at risk. The level of borrowing is detailed in our financial statements which are public documents and published annually. As at the end of March 2017, Notting Hill Housing had borrowed £1.3bn and has reserves of £2.1bn. Genesis has loans of £1.475bn against reserves of £806m. In time we will produce one set of financial statements which set out all debt, reserves and surplus generated.
Who are your investors? Is this information public?
How will staff be affected?
We plan to involve colleagues across both organisations in helping us to shape how we will deliver services to our residents.
We have a lot of work to do to become one organisation and we need our skilled and talented workforce to help shape how we will operate in future and also ensure we continue to deliver excellent services to our customers as we go through this period of change.
But we recognise that over time there will be changes to jobs. Our focus will be to ensure we minimise redundancies wherever possible and retain talent – and we know that natural staff turnover will help us achieve any necessary reductions. We are working with colleagues to keep them informed and involved as the proposed merger progresses.
Everyone who works at Notting Hill Housing or Genesis will continue to focus on ensuring we maintain a high level of service throughout and beyond the merger.
Keeping in touch
Will your contact details change?
Our phone numbers and email address will remain the same for now. We’ll harmonise them as part of the integration process, but will give you plenty of notice of any changes.
Will I still receive Spotlight/The Resident?
For the time being, you’ll continue to receive our quarterly magazines – Spotlight for Genesis residents and The Resident for NHH residents. We’ll be looking at whether to combine the publications in due course as well as at other online communications tools.
Will your website change?