Pondering the Green Paper

Since the Social Housing Green paper came out, I’ve been pondering the opportunities it presents to rethink how the sector is held to account by tenants and residents.

League tables

Many others have covered the pitfalls and challenges that league tables present; I’m going to focus on some ideas to make them viable.

My understanding of the underlying drivers of this idea is to enable tenants and residents to identify and challenge their landlord for poor performance in the areas that matter to them. I’m not sure that many existing or previous performance measures are crafted to do this, instead focusing on the things that matter to the organisation (e.g. rent loss) or satisfaction with a process (e.g. quality of repair).

So we need to go back to the drawing board and think about performance measurement in a different way. I think we can categorise performance measures in two ways: those based on data the landlord holds about what they are doing and those based on satisfaction data from tenants and residents. So the first question to consider is whether leagues tables should be based on one or a mix of these.

Then we need to identify the issues that are important to tenants that are suitable to be monitored through league tables (i.e. are relevant to different types and sizes of landlords in different locations). Here’s what I come up with so far:

  • Satisfaction data
    • Ease of raising a query and getting it resolved in a timely manner
    • Treated respectfully, courteously, professionally
    • Satisfaction with repairs and maintenance of your home
    • Does your landlord act in your best interest
    • Value for money of your rent and your service charge
    • If you could change your landlord, move home or change the area you live in, would you
  • Landlord data
    • number of complaints and expressions of dissatisfaction and average time to resolve these issues
    • compliance with legal asset management requirements (gas servicing, fire safety, electrical testing, Decent Homes, etc)
    • Number of ASB cases, % successfully resolved and average timescales

These are by no means refined suggestions and would need careful definition, but hopefully will provoke thinking and discussion about how league tables could be used to measure performance differently.


Ensuring residents voices are heard

I’m still pondering this section of the Green Paper quite a lot and I think it may be because I can’t grasp what the underlying driver is, the Green Paper mentions driving service improvements through league tables, using customer insight to ensure customer focused services, providing customer decision making powers and providing choice in the services received. And there’s a separate section on raising safety concerns.

And maybe we need all of these things and this highlights the issue with resident engagement throughout the sector, it can be interpreted in different ways and so there is a range of different approaches out there.

My experience of resident engagement is that it’s seen as the responsibility of certain officers or teams and that it’s largely about consultation on a subject proposed by the landlord. The exception to this is Scrutiny Panels which can act as a powerful accountability tool when done well, investigating a service from a tenant/resident perspective, though this is referenced very little in the Green Paper.

There seems to be potential for the Green Paper to establish a common approach to resident engagement to ensure all landlords are listening to the voices of tenants and residents for the same outcomes.