Housing company in charge of £1bn redevelopment ordered to pay £10K in compensation

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Major housing association Clarion has been ordered to pay £10,800 in compensation to households after the housing ombudsman made four findings of severe ‘maladministration’ across three cases in Merton.

This comes in light of recent progress made on the landmark Clarion redevelopment of Merton’s three main council estates to the tune of more than £1billion.

In one case, a resident experienced “high levels of distress” after Clarion failed to address a persistent gutter leak, which caused water to drip into their flat and pulled wallpaper off the ceilings. Despite being first raised with Clarion in May 2018, the issue was not resolved until April 2022.

Another case emphasised Clarion’s willingness to blame residents for the failures.

Merton council insisted on having greater oversight over the project (Picture: Harrison Galliven)

The ombudsman’s report stated: “Often, the landlord’s responses lacked empathy and put the onus on changing her lifestyle.”

The report also noted how, despite the property being up for regeneration in the highly publicised Clarion development, the landlord was “not proactive in seeking resolutions in line with its health and safety obligations”.

Housing ombudsman representative Richard Blakeway said: “In these cases, residents had to go to extraordinary lengths for the landlord to take action. There is also evidence of the landlord failing to join the dots, especially in the cases where there were multiple related complaints from the same block.”

Clarion, which Merton council transferred its housing stock to in 2010, is due to have completed most of its planned building within 15 years of it being given the green light by Merton in August 2021. This plan includes a total redevelopment of the Eastfields, High Path, and Ravensbury estates.

Master plan of the Ravensbury Estate regeneration (Picture: Clarion Housing Group)

The housing association, which calls itself the UK’s largest affordable housing provider, plans to replace 1,000 ageing homes with 1,800 new homes and a further 1,400 additional new houses for residents.

While the High Path and Ravensbury estates’ initial phases have already been finished, Clarion issued a warning in April 2020, that action was required to address a program deficit that posed a “serious risk to deliverability.”

On September 6, 2021, suspended its eligibility to five per cent of receipts from homes sold in the project, for as long as the program remains in deficit. The council felt this decision was necessary for the project to be delivered.

In exchange for this concession, Merton insisted on having greater oversight over the project.

In their official learning statement, Clarion said: “We apologise sincerely to the residents in all three of these cases for the shortcomings in the service we have provided to them. We have complied with the Ombudsman’s orders in each case and we have gone to lengths to consider what we can learn from these cases to continuously improve.

Sketch of a proposed townhouse in High Path (Picture: Clarion Housing Group)

“We acknowledge that it is not acceptable to blame lifestyle as the cause of damp and mould.

“Our new approach has seen every member of staff undertake damp and mould training so that reports are dealt with promptly and sensitively.

“We expect to see the impact of these changes in cases that have arisen since December 2022. ”

A Merton council spokesman said: “As the landlord, Clarion are responsible for any disrepair, though the Council may on occasion take enforcement action where necessary.

“Clarion is investing £1.3bn in regenerating three housing estates in Merton which will provide high quality and more sustainable homes for existing residents, as well as providing a pipeline of new homes”

Pictured top: High Path estate, one of Clarion’s regeneration sites (Picture: Harrison Galliven)

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