Friday, 27 September 2013



The housing crisis has never been far from the top of the agenda at  the party conferences. In Carlisle too there has been a lot of discussion,a lot of it highly critical.

Much of this discussion has centred on the giant Liverpool organisation, Riverside Housing Association which owns the bulk of the city`s former council houses.

Some of the city`s young activists-  the Axe the Bedroom Tax group- had a demonstration outside Riverside`s office in Botchergate.

And  Malcolm Craik,  a former director on the board of Riverside`s Carlisle operation, is calling for an investigation into why Riverside has thirty empty properties when there is so much homelessness in the city.

Mr Craik says that Riverside cannot blame the bedroom tax for the empty houses-  it has consistently failed to  anticipate  Carlisle`s housing demand, says  a letter to the Editor of the Cumberland News reprinted below.

The bedroom tax protesters got a lot of  newspaper publicity with their demonstration. Afterwards,Riverside bosses invited the protesters into the office for a chat. This Riverside welcome  was a bit over-the-top for the banner-waving activists.

It  was embarrassing for them. But despite this and despite  the plans to abolish the bedroom tax- at the Lib Dem and Labour party conferences- the Carlisle protesters failed to get a promise they wanted, a promise from Riverside not to  carry out any bedroom tax evictions.

More criticism of Riverside came at a special meeting of Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation  called to discuss the continuing  controversial issues at Dixon`s Court, Shaddongate, where Riverside has 28 tenants and leaseholders.

These issues were previously discussed  a few weeks ago on this blog. Riverside tenants say that Riverside is failing in its duty of care and is failing to explain its service charges.

The issues go back for about three months and have still not been resolved. Tenants are now making new allegations about their health and safety.
The Federation continues to protest and support the Dixon`s Court tenants and will continue to until the issues are resolved.


Riverside Carlisle Housing Association says that it cannot let thirty of its three bedroomed houses in Carlisle.  ‘Bedroom tax' blamed for three-bed homes standing empty in Carlisle, News & Star, 23 September 2013. 

This should come as no surprise to the association as it has consistently failed to anticipate housing demand in the city; not only that but in recent years it has deliberately increased its weekly rents by more than inflation so that now it makes sound economic sense for many working families to purchase a home on the open market.

The ‘bedroom tax’ cannot be blamed for Riverside’s current lettings difficulties. Parliament enacted the Welfare Reform Act on 8 March 2012 and landlords had a year to tailor their business models to take into account the likely effects of the measures.

Of all the landlords in Carlisle only Riverside appears to be having difficulty letting its properties. Customer resistance to Riverside tenancies suggests that the association’s business model is not meeting local affordable housing need.

On 26 February 2013 Riverside’s divisional director told the News & Star that the association’s plans were driven by housing policy – not welfare policy.

Therefore he added there were no plans for one-bedroomed flats. Contemporaneously Riverside announced that it was demolishing one-bedroomed properties in the city.

I find myself coming to the conclusion that Riverside has to a great extent been hoist by its own petard having failed, for whatever reason, to understand its own market.

Of course the City Council with its homelessness remit should have ensured that Riverside produced a sensible mix of properties to help reduce homelessness in Carlisle.

The City already has tenancy nomination rights with Riverside, negotiated at the time of the Stock Transfer, and has four members siting on the Riverside board of governance.

I expect that Jessica Riddle, the city councillor responsible for housing, will investigate why it is that Riverside has thirty empty properties at a time when homeless in our fair city remains so high.

Community Voice Carlisle is the blog of Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation. Information about the Federation is on the first post of this blog. dated March 25.

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