Why we updated the Together with Tenants Charter

Ewan Fulford, Policy Officer, National Housing Federation, 17 June 2024

Earlier this year, we launched our new and updated Together with Tenants Charter to reflect the centrality of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in this work. 
Together with Tenants was launched in 2019, with the support of 130 early adopters and our Tenant Advisory Panel. With six initial commitments, outlined in our Charter, Together with Tenants has been instrumental in driving forward change and setting clear commitments on the service residents can expect from their landlords. 
Adopters have taken on the Charter, with work ranging from shaping sustainability strategies to founding resident scrutiny groups. To date, Together with Tenants has grown to over 225 adopters, covering 88.5% of the homes owned by NHF members.  
For all of us, the publishing of the Better Social Housing Review was a time of reflection. It was an impetus for us as a sector to put forward proposals for real, systemic change and work collaboratively to continue delivering on our social purpose. 
The final review put forward by the panel specifically highlighted the value and initiative of the Together with Tenants programme. However, what was clear was the work needed to be done to ensure all tenants have a voice, so that they can shape decision making, service delivery, and hold their landlords to account.  
The review emphasised some residents, particularly those from Black, Asian and Minority backgrounds, were excluded from decision making processes and had worse outcomes than their counterparts. This has been identified in other studies too. I was struck by Heriot Watt’s research in late 2022 which found Black people were three and a half times more likely to experience statutory homelessness than White British people.  
Recognising this, our BSHR action plan set out a regime of work which would challenge structural and racial inequality, and put in place a number of commitments which centred the experiences of underrepresented and marginalised groups. Crucially, this included “embed[ing] equality, diversity and inclusion as a vital component” of the Together with Tenants Charter. 

Updating the Together with Tenants Charter

In late 2023, we began drawing up a new Charter commitment which would meet this need. EDI work cannot take place in a vacuum, it requires buy-in and collaboration to deliver effectually. We worked and consulted with our Tenant Advisory Panel (TAP), the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, early adopters, and our EDI National Group, to write a new commitment which would be compelling, achievable, and impactful.  

The final wording focuses on proactive engagement of underrepresented groups, highlighting the importance of communications in delivering an inclusive culture:  

Housing associations will be inclusive organisations which seek views from all groups. Approaches to resident involvement will be inclusive by engaging with residents from a range of backgrounds and experiences. Consultations with residents will include outreach to underrepresented communities, including through targeted communications  

The new Charter officially launched in May 2024 alongside a redesign of our webpages. You will be able to hear from some of TAP themselves on 2 July at our resident webinar, who will be speaking through the Charter edits and their work on Together with Tenants to date.   

The changes to the Charter are one part of a much broader programme of ensuring we, as a sector, are inclusive. As a member of the NHF’s Tenant Advisory Panel says:

'It is so important to keep the Charter in the public eye, and to make sure that every tenant is aware. The revised Charter will also be a reminder to housing staff, and boards, that there is continuing importance in progressing the Charter commitments.'

- Tenant Advisory Panel members.

You can join other adopters in leading the sector’s ambition to strengthening relationships with residents by becoming an adopter. If you’re interested in becoming an adopter, you can register your interest by emailing us.