Giving tenants a voice is crucial to delivering real change

Posted: 16/11/2020

Giving people a say in how communities are run and services are delivered should not be complex and should not be applauded – it should be a common sense approach that is applied and replicated across the housing sector.

We know that delivering real change and creating new possibilities only happens through meaningful engagement with tenants and building relationships so that people are at the heart of decision-making.

They are not ‘our’ homes, they belong to people who live in them. They are not ‘our’ communities, they belong to tenants.

Our role as landlords is to empower people. It is to be supportive. To make sure that people have a voice and a chance to challenge and influence how things are done.

By working together and being able to have open, honest – and sometimes tough – conversations with each other, tenants and landlords can improve lives and make a difference.

But it only works if landlords are willing listen – and then act.

The Pro Landlord Accreditation from Tpas shows that our approach is working.

Following a full assessment involving ‘reality check’ sessions with ForHousing tenants, staff and Board members, Tpas singled out our “positive, can do attitude.”

The report from the accreditation also recognised our “willingness to work with, to listen to, to act upon, to own and to feedback and work positively with tenants and the wider community.”

To be meaningful, collaboration and conversations between housing providers and tenants needs to happen from the boardroom to the community centre.

This year we launched our Tenant Voice Strategy which was developed in partnership with tenants. We also launched a new Redress Policy that has transformed how complaints are dealt with, ensuring tenants can have one-to-one conversations and only have to deal with a single person until the issue is resolved.

We’ve worked with people in the community and partners to develop a Care Leavers’ Pledge so that anyone leaving the care system can access a secure home and job opportunities that will set them up for life.

After the Grenfell fire tragedy, we invested £5m to install sprinklers in 17 high rise blocks. We didn’t do this because we had to. We did it because when we talked to tenants they told us they didn’t feel safe. Now 97% of people say they feel safe in their homes.

We have a tenant involvement structure that puts engagement at the heart of our culture, known as ACORN.

This approach has been redesigned to give more people more opportunities to engage with us in ways that fit around their lives – from a Community Voice, to ‘We are Neighbourhoods’ groups and Neighbourhood Champions, all of which enables tenants to take an active role in how their local areas are run.

It is clear from the positive feedback from Tpas that these strategies and tactics do make a difference.

The accreditation is very thorough and gives recommendations for areas we can improve on. We’ll be working on these in the coming months, ensuring we really are doing all we can to engage tenants.

The sector is currently reviewing the newly launched Social Housing White Paper, which focuses on the relationships that landlords have with their tenants. But tenant engagement and empowerment shouldn’t be driven by policy announcements. It should be a continuous investment in making sure tenants have a voice.

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