Carole Burchett writes for #HousingDay on why she is a #proudtenant
I am a proud tenant but have only been so for 10 years or so because I didn’t know that I could be proud.
It isn’t a new thing for social housing tenants to be viewed as being at the bottom of the chain. Does anyone remember the comedy sketch where Ronnie Corbett kept saying, “I know my place”? That’s pretty much the way I felt.
I received a very poor service from my landlord but I thought this was normal and I shouldn’t expect anything else.
Then by way of a Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) my landlord changed.
I became a tenant of Soha Housing whose views were very different. I discovered a new way of working, my views were valued and I could help improve standards by working with other tenants and staff. As my confidence grew I was able to raise my ambitions and I became chair of scrutiny at Soha.
It sounds a bit dramatic to say being an involved tenant has changed my life, but it has. At my first meeting I attended I was afraid someone would speak to me or expect me to speak to them. That is totally different to the person I am today.
There is a famous book which starts with the words, “The past is a foreign country”; my book should read, “The past is a different person”.
Earlier this year we worked on ‘Scrutiny live’ with the scrutiny groups of three other housing associations, New Charter, Community Gateway and Phoenix Community Housing. This has been a work in progress over a number of years. We were formerly working together during the end of the Tenant Services Authority with a remit to spread the cause of co-regulation. We undertook a review of the government’s housing policies as was set out in its election manifesto. With help from Nic Bliss (20/20 Housing Co-op) we did an online survey and produced a list of questions to be answered at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester. The major questions to housing professionals covered accountability, affordability and supply. You can find our report if you Google Scrutiny Live.
After producing our report we attempted to get a response from secretary of state Greg Clark and also wanted a meeting. Unfortunately, we had no reply but by chance I was asked to be a speaker at the recent Placeshapers conference and Mr Clark was going to be there. I took my chance and at his question and answer session I asked if I could have a meeting “as I had my diary with me” – it made him laugh and he agreed. If I actually get to see him I’ll let you know.
My worry now is not looking into how my housing association works but outwards to a government who seems to want to destroy us completely. Social housing was primarily for lower paid people to have decent homes to live in and to work with the community to improve their lives. The government’s aim for everyone to own their homes is not possible and I fear Right to Buy, affordable rents (which are not affordable) will change the profile of the people who will be housed.
Where will the most vulnerable people in society live? Will it be in the unregulated private rented sector with no protection?
I am a proud tenant. But I’m also proud of all the other tenants I know who are working for their neighbours and communities to improve services for people who may not be able to do so for themselves.
Carole Burchett, #proudtenant and chair of scrutiny, Soha Housing
#HousingDay is on Wednesday 18 November