I’ve had the pleasure of not one but two roundtable events this week on the topic of social housing tenants being heard by their landlords.
The first was hosted by my organisation and featuring Jenny Osbourne, Chan Kataria and Martin Hilditch, and the second was the Nottingham Conversation with the Housing Minister event.
Both events included discussions about the potential for increased regulation around resident involvement, from cries of bring back the Audit Commission, to leave us alone we know what we’re doing.
I pretty much agree with the second option, though of course there is room for improvement in some organisations but we must make sure any regulation changes don’t add unnecessary red tape, don’t just become the standard rather than the minimum, aren’t a one size fits all and do focus on outcomes rather than methods. Let’s also learn from things we already know work well, such as accreditation schemes offered by TPAS and Housemark and the provisions for leaseholder associations.
And we’ve got to make sure we do more than just listen to residents on our terms, effective listening happens out in the community where the residents and the issues are, working with them and not imposing our solutions on them. Only in this way can we hope to listen to the hardest to hear too, such as the housebound, disabled, those with English as a second language, etc.
I think almost all landlords get resident involvement and would happily do more, but whilst ever the Government focus is on development, organisations will also focus their resources on this and cut back as far as possible in other areas. More balance from the Government in its expectations from landlords was my ask of the Minister when the 5 of us that stuck around for his late arrival got to meet with him. Whilst building as many homes as possible is crucial, it mustn’t be at the expense of the millions of current social housing residents, who require increasing support from an ever reducing number of support providers.
My second ask of the Minister was a joined up Government where DCLG and DWP policies work in harmony and not in contradiction. Whilst residents are struggling without enough money to live on and living in unsuitable housing, often with physical or mental health issues, the last thing they will be interested in is how their landlord compares against its peer group for satisfaction with repairs.
Of course, it’s not just for landlords to listen to social housing residents, the Government must do it’s bit as well and it was encouraging to hear the minister speak so positively about his experiences so far in meeting residents and staff and that he’s been recommending that other departments do the same. But let’s not wait for them to call us, let’s all commit to inviting our MPs to meet with residents and make sure they are listening too.