Catherine Ryder explains how we have taken on board feedback from our members to shape our Offer for Tenants work.
Catherine Ryder is Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation
31 January 2018
Over November and December, colleagues and I shuttled up and down the country talking to you, our members, about our new Offer for Tenants project. You shared our ambition for the project, but rightly asked questions about how this would add value in a crowded space and challenged us to build on the great work already happening in the sector. We’ve thought hard about how to do this, with guidance and input from our member steering group, and here I want to set out our thinking and how we’ve developed the work in response to your feedback.
At its heart, this project is about working together to be the best landlords we can be, to have such a compelling and well understood offer that the whole country is knocking on the door of Number 10 demanding more social housing (something which we at the Federation already do on a regular basis, but it wouldn’t hurt to be joined by thousands of other voices!). And while this is part of our long-standing Ambition to Deliver, the imperative for us to reiterate our commitment to delivering for every social housing tenant is undeniable.
By way of a quick recap, despite the ministerial merry-go-round the sector has maintained a strong relationship with this Government. However, the current focus on social housing brings with it increased scrutiny. We have a Green Paper, a Labour Party review and various commissions looking at social housing and social housing landlords. Much of the debate is likely to focus on whether landlords take proper account of the views and experiences of their tenants in the homes and services they provide and the decisions they make.
Independent data tells us the quality of homes and services we provide is high, something we are rightly proud of, though it is inevitable there is still room for improvement, as there is in any sector. And while we can, and do, point to countless best practice examples of how housing associations put tenant experience at the heart of what they do, there is no consistent or collective understanding of what tenants expect from their landlords, and how we measure against those expectations.
Working with you and your tenants, we plan to establish a large-scale standing tenant panel, to ensure the experience of tenants is being heard as part of an ongoing national conversation. Based on the feedback from members, we are considering how we can to this in partnership with others who are experts at this and will bring independence and credibility to our work. We want to consider the potential that a digital world offers to collect views in real time and through something close to mass participation.
But crucially, gathering this information will only be the starting point. As a sector, committing to acting on this information, and then doing it, will be critical.
The other issue we want to explore with members is how, as a sector, we can be open and transparent with every tenant about the service they can expect and are receiving from their own landlord. This isn’t about imposing one set of service standards, or revisiting the consumer standards set out in regulation, but rather ensuring tenants have the tools and information they need to ask questions and challenge when we fall below what they expect. We know many members already do this brilliantly and we will learn from and build on this, as you have asked us to, but again we don’t have a consistent approach across the sector.
We know this isn’t a straightforward undertaking. In particular, we have thought about the questions you’ve asked on how this work adds value in a crowded space, with other organisations holding reviews of social housing and tenant involvement.
Our answer is that as landlords, we have a unique perspective, a unique ability to take practical action, and a mission to be the very best landlords we can be. If we get this work right, we will be able to confidently assert that we are a long way towards being just that, which can only benefit the people who matter most – the people who live in our homes
Expect to hear more from us on this over the coming months, but if you have views or concerns you would like to feed in then please do not hesitate to get in touch.