Tenant power changes future face of social housing

It draws on existing practice to help tenants, staff and governors in the social housing sector to develop and make effective use of resident-led scrutiny, and suggests ideas to inform the way the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) carries out regulation.

Resident-led self-regulation is already allowing tenants of a number of pioneer housing organisations to call their landlords to account and have a lead role in improving front-line services, scrutinising performance and ensuring that the organisation is well governed.

The report, Resident-led self-regulation: Enhancing in-house scrutiny and performance, was funded by the TSA through its Tenant Excellence Fund and is the culmination of three years of work by CIH on a model that will help organisations to involve residents in the running of their business and to influence decisions.

Phil Morgan, Executive Director of Tenant Services at the TSA, said: "This is important and timely work on tenant scrutiny. Our new empowerment and involvement standard stresses the importance of how tenants can effectively scrutinise and help shape the services of their landlord and this report gives lots of practical examples for providers and tenants to learn from."

Abigail Davies, CIH Head of Policy, co-authored the report. She said: "The early adopters of resident-led self-regulation have done some great work and have paved the way for others to follow. If it becomes widespread in the housing sector it will bring clear benefits to tenants, housing providers and the regulator. This approach can improve services, and it also has the potential to link with the new regulatory framework to assure the quality of landlord performance and to reduce external intervention."

Six housing organisations profiled in the report have implemented the model in different ways. Aldwyck Housing Group has a long history of tenant involvement and in 2008 established a Customer Scrutiny Panel with 15 tenant members who meet the board over several hours twice a year to question them on performance. The Chairman of the Scrutiny Panel, John Miles, said: "I can’t think of any other organisation where the board can be questioned by its customers for four hours." This questioning raised concerns over voids and the process was re-examined, improved and the time a property was left empty was cut dramatically and huge savings were made.

Salix Homes has recruited a 13-strong Customer Senate which will hold Salix to account for its behaviour and performance. The Senate scrutinises the topics it thinks will be of greatest value to the organisation. Its first review was of Salix Direct, a customer contact centre, which highlighted the issue of "avoidable contact" where customers were calling several times rather than their query being resolved on first contact. The review is expected to improve the customer experience and eventually cut costs.

Alison Hill from Salix said: "We have never really had customers look at processes and procedures befor…it is so valuable to have a different set of eyes looking at how we do things from a customer’s point of view. The benefit to us all is continuous improvement."

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