National Housing Federation sorry for 'unacceptable' living conditions exposed by ITV News

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports on the response from the National Housing Federation after revealing residents' appalling living conditions

The National Housing Federation, which represents more than 800 social housing providers in England, has issued an apology and admitted the sector has let down tenants following an ITV News investigation.

The federation, whose members provide homes to around six million people, said living conditions exposed by our reporting were unacceptable.

“Your investigation has revealed stories that are just completely unacceptable, and I want to say sorry to those residents. They deserve better,", the federation's chief executive Kate Henderson told ITV News.

She admitted a "culture change" is needed in social housing, along with "greater accountability, trust and responsiveness between the social landlord and residents".

"We're absolutely committed to providing good quality services to residents," she added. "However what your investigation has shown is that hasn't always been the case.

"Now, this is not the norm, but these situations you've revealed are just not acceptable. Sorry might be an easy word to say but it's absolutely genuine."

'These people have been let down, I am really sorry to them': Kate Henderson, CEO of the National Housing Federation, insists they are taking the findings 'seriously'

She added: "We know that around 5% of housing association homes do have some kind of damp or mold and we need to take urgent action.

"So I've been talking to members, since your investigation started airing about what they're doing. I know some members are investing more money.

"I know members are reviewing their complaints processes, reviewing every repair that's come in, request around damp and mold to make sure it's been actioned properly. So we're taking it really seriously."

Since first reporting on the squalid and dangerous conditions endured by residents in a tower block in Croydon in March, ITV News has investigated the state of social housing in Britain and the complaints system that leaves tenants feeling trapped and helpless.

Around six million people live in housing associations properties. Similar to council housing, they provide homes at lower rents to people most in need, who cannot afford to rent on the open market.

ITV News has learned that the number of complaints to the housing ombudsman about housing associations has risen by 35% in the last three years. There were 7,316 complaints in 2020/21, compared to 5,409 in 2018/19.

But while complaints against housing associations have gone up, so have the salaries they pay their chief executives.

The highest earning chief executive earns £436,681, while every chief executive at the top ten biggest housing associations earns more than £284,000.

In 2020 chief executives of the ten biggest companies took home, on average, £340,000.

While housing associations don't make profits, they generate additional income by building and selling homes on the open market.

More from our housing investigations:

Their income has more than doubled from £10 billion in 2008 to £21.2 billion in 2020.

One former chief executive told ITV News he believes the reason so many complaints are made is because some housing associations have become too big and too detached from the communities they were designed to serve.

"I think there's a cultural problem, in that size and the way organisations have developed in the last few years seems to suggest that some of our tenants are not the priority," Tom Murtha said.

"I personally believe as housing associations have got bigger, they've lost touch with some of their tenants. They've lost touch with some of their communities where they provide a service."

Tom Murtha, Former Housing Association CEO, tells ITV News why he thinks some housing associations have moved away from their values

On chief executive pay, he agreed with many tenants that some chief executive wages have become too high.

He said: "I think some of the salaries are too high but I can see why someone living in unacceptable housing conditions would say they are too high and I could not argue with them, because if they're not receiving the service, why does that person deserve such a high salary."

Mr Murtha said chief executive pay should "take account of what existing tenants say", rather than being based on the size of an association.

'You're living in it, there's no way out': Angela Price, a housing association tenant, talks through the stress of living in her home

He added: "I think also they've got their priorities wrong. I think the priority in that you grow and build more homes that actually people in need can't afford, is not the priority we should have today.

"The priority should be investing in our existing stock and actually providing the best possible service we can to those people who live in those homes."

On the money paid to chief executives, Ms Henderson said: "Salaries of housing association chief executives are set by independent boards, various boards often have residents on them and they are comparable in the not-for-profit charitable sector."

Do you have a story to share about housing conditions? Email