Tower Hamlets Community Housing residents protesting against the merge of THCH and Poplar HARCA. Credit: Local Demoracy Reporting Service
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Tower Hamlets Community Housing and Poplar HARCA announce they will no longer be merging

‘We knew there was something rotten’: Poplar HARCA and Tower Hamlets Community Housing will no longer be merging after months of talks.

On Thursday 18 April, Poplar HARCA and Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH) announced they would no longer be merging and had decided to end the plans, which were supposed to be completed by this spring.

Anita Khan, CEO of THCH, said the decision ‘hadn’t been easy’ but said it was done with the residents’ ‘best interests in mind’. She said: ‘Our goal remains to improve the services we provide and invest more into residents’ homes and communities.’

Steve Stride, Poplar HARCA’s CEO, said: ‘We are obviously disappointed, as we firmly believe in the benefits a merger could bring to residents, and also both businesses.’

Neither housing association revealed the reasons the plans were no longer going ahead, and declined to give further comment to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Hussain Ismail, a founding member of Justice for THCH residents, told the LDRS: ‘We knew this would happen, we knew there was something rotten with our housing association [THCH], we just want decent houses and for communities to be looked after. Our housing association [THCH] just seems to be falling apart like a lot of housing associations and it’s all about money.’

Rabina Khan, ex-Tower Hamlets councillor and now the Lib Dem candidate for Bethnal Green and Stepney, said: ‘My concern is THCH, they don’t have a good rating. My concern is I don’t want to see a local housing provider fold under a larger housing association because people need services on the estate, they need to see people, residents need to see people.’

If the plans were to go ahead, Poplar HARCA would have become the new landlord of THCH properties and they would have collectively managed more than 13,000 homes in East London. 

The merger plans were revealed in June 2023, just months after THCH had been downgraded by the Regulator of Social Housing.

In March 2023, the regulator had serious concerns over the housing association’s finances and blasted its financial position as ‘weak’. 

The regulator said: ‘Evidence gathered by the regulator during its investigation confirmed weaknesses in THCH’s internal controls framework, and that the board of THCH has not been managing its affairs with an appropriate degree of skill, diligence, prudence and foresight.

‘The board has failed to demonstrate it understands and is managing the risks THCH faces or has appropriate mitigation strategies in place to ensure the long term viability of the organisation and protect social housing assets.’

THCH declined to comment and respond to concerns raised by Mr Hussain and Ms Khan.

For more news about your area, read Thames Water released sewage into the River Lee and its tributaries 1,060 times in 2023

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