Tuesday, 03 March 2015

Tenant empowerment

A New Local Government Network paper outlining how the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 can help empower tenants.

The paper, written by Ian Keys, external affairs director for Pinnacle and one of those heavily involved in the lobbying over the act, looks at the role of the regulator the Tenant Services Authority and offers recommendations on how it can bring together landlords, housing managers and tenants, ensuring that both receive fair treatment and value for money.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I welcome Ian Keys publication. It is exactly what tenants are asking for. It is far too easy to tote around one tenant which an RSL selects and say they are representative.

    I was voted by 834 tenants to represent them on the Joint Commission with Circle 33 Housing Trust last year to serve for three years.

    I have sadly been forced to resign, days before this publication.

    In the year that I did represent tenants, on an equality vote, I was subjected to unreasonable discrimination, provocation and mis-information by both the organisation and other Commissioners. Some unintentional and some not.

    Despite needing a quorum of four Commissioners (tenants) to even hold a meeting, two Commissioners have decided that this year there shall be no election. This was discussed and the decision made at a meeting not open to all it affected. It was for this very reason that I was finally forced to resign. I believe in democracy.

    Tenants do not have unreasonable expectations. We are used to poor service provision. We aren't the ones using John Lewis as a benchmark.

    We want to be involved in effecting the changes we see as a priority which are often in line with the organisation. You need to ask us though or we can't tell you.

    Most of us live on very tight budgets which leaves us questioning how RSL's get through so much money in so little time. When it comes to finance we are a tough crowd to please. For the right reasons. let us share our knowledge and skills with you.

    Change may be uncomfortable for organisations which have taken money through rents but had no compulsion to seek our opinions on how services are shaped for the future but we need 'change we can believe in'.

    It is easy for employees to go to work and then go home. When we 'go to work' with our housing association, we go home to that organisations property. Please bear that in mind, a little respect goes a long way.

    We have a vested interest in our RSL's success. That is far too often underplayed. We want it to work. We want you to grow and we want to grow with you. If you have contractors ask them to provide apprenticeships. Not a token amount but let us rebuild our community's skills base ready for when the economy (or Olympics) bounces us back up. Use this time to consolidate your investments. Decent kitchens and bathrooms, sound and heat insulation. CCTV and sound monitoring for ASB. We need community centres for our young people and our elderly.

    You are in powerful positions to negotiate positive change.

    We need everyone working together and not against each other. Isolation is not productive.

    Signposting is one thing being constructive and creative with your contracts is another.

    And please become open and accountable. Make it easy for us to gain access and understand why you do things the way you do. You may be surprised how much we can help.

    We look after your properties. By living in them we maintain them. That in turn, despite the current economy will increase property values in the long term. We will be living in these properties a long time. Those of us wishing to transfer know that you have sold anything we could have moved to and that RSL's were too busy selling new builds to people that couldn't afford them instead of looking after the tenants who's rents essentially paid for those developments. We are very aware that the market values on the properties we live in helped provide security for any loans you may have sought.

    It is our neighbourhoods. Our streets. Our estates. Too often it is forgotten by housing professionals that they are our guests. Please remember that with no tenants there are no rents. No rents means no wages. We are looking after you. Now we want our dividend for investing in your organisations for so long. That dividend is participation.

    It was said in the eighties that if the people on benefit ran the benefit system there would be no one on benefit. We still have the solutions to our problems but we need organisations to listen and work with us.

    To effect change we need fair representation. We need to choose who represents us no matter how uncomfortable that may be for management or PR staff. We may not look like poster material but our hearts and minds are in the right place and that is what is important.

    We want to be part of the solution and not labelled the problem. It's time to let us fullfil our potentials too.

    Finally, houses and flats are not your best investment. It's the people that live in them.

    Paul Brassil

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