We’ve heard from almost 400 members, and worked closely with social housing residents, to produce a strong and ambitious response to the Green paper that captures the diverse views of our sector.
Catherine Ryder is Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation
6 November 2018
The Government announced its intention to launch a far-reaching, once in a generation, Social Housing Green Paper in September 2017. Following this, A New Deal for Social Housing was published in August 2018, nearly a whole year later. By comparison, we were only given what felt like an incredibly brief 12 weeks to respond.
As a trade body, we wanted to make sure that as many of our members as possible had the chance to discuss and contribute their views, concerns and ideas to our response. We also wanted to make time to listen to residents, both directly and through our members, to better understand how social housing needs to change for the people who live in it.
So, where to start? Well, the honest answer is by cramming in as many conversations as it is possible to have over 12 weeks, in every region of the country, and accepting that you will be spending a lot of time drinking bad tea on slow trains!
Fortunately, we had already been talking to our members, residents and tenant groups over the last year about many of the questions explored in the Green Paper through our Offer to Tenants project. For example, I published a blog on Housing Day recently about the work we’ve been doing on this project with our members to ensure every housing association resident has their voice heard. So, responding to the Green Paper was the evolution of a discussion already well underway.
Two key points became clear in all of our conversations:
- The sector accepted the case for change and the need to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents. One of the sentiments that came up a lot in conversations with our members was something along the lines of ‘we think we do a good job, but there is no room for complacency.’
- Whether we genuinely listen to residents and put them at the heart of what we do comes down to the culture and leadership of organisations.
These two points are a very helpful place to start, and both of these points significantly shaped the tone and content of our Green Paper response.
We have, in our response, engaged constructively with the ideas and questions posed in the Green Paper, as members urged us to. But we have also said where we think the Government should go further. For example, we think there is more the Government can do to address stigma, including supporting a significant resident-led public awareness campaign. We’ve also urged the Government to be bold in significantly expanding the social housing offer, returning it to a tenure of choice and aspiration.
By the same token, we have also said where we think further sector-led change could play an important role in crafting A New Deal for Social Housing, taking the opportunity to talk about our Offer for Tenants work and the lasting impact we think it can make.
And while a number of the specific ideas in the Green Paper prompted lots of healthy debate, some key principles emerged early on that allowed us to navigate through the trickier issues. For example, housing associations and residents alike both spoke of the importance of landlords being honest and open about how they are doing with residents, and there being a more proactive approach to the regulation of consumer issues.
So we’ve been clear in our response that we want to work in partnership with residents, the Government and the regulator to consider how to best put these principles into practice in a meaningful way for residents.
Twelve weeks did seem like a very short time to respond to a Green Paper, one that explored some significant questions and set a clear expectation of change in our sector. But we know the conversation doesn’t stop here.
We will continue to talk to our members, residents and the Government about how we can work together to make our social housing offer as strong as it possibly can be, making a positive impact on the lives of the people we house, and those we house in the future.