Jackie Perry, Assistant Director of Communities and Customer Service at Muir Group Housing Association, discusses the NHF’s ‘Together with Tenants’ initiative and how important it is that tenant’s voices are welcomed, heard, valued and acted upon.
The National Housing Federation’s Together with Tenants initiative highlights the importance of building positive relationships with residents and aims to provide a universal baseline for how we should all value their feedback.
It should mark a step change in the tenant/landlord relationship and re-emphasise the necessity for landlords not only to listen, but also to understand how tenants can influence and help improve what we do. As such, part of the Together with Tenants commitment will be that the NHF seeks to implement changes in the code of governance for housing associations.
At Muir Group Housing Association, we signed up to become an ‘early adopter’ with Together with Tenants because it’s an ideal that we truly believe in — and we want to help turn it into reality.
The proposed charter sits with our own values as a housing association and we are enthusiastic about sharing our learning with others, while also learning from the experiences of other housing providers. We believe Together with Tenants can help provide consistency within the sector. Regardless of where or who your landlord is, there is a basic level of service that should be expected in terms of commitment. This initiative can provide that baseline, although I think that good landlords should endeavour to go above and beyond that.
The fact that we’ve embedded residents in our governance structure at senior level at Muir — in dialogue with our Board — demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our residents have a clear pathway and a clear voice with which to scrutinise how our services and performance. This helps to provide meaningful change wherever it may be needed.
The residents who sit on our National Residents Group have engaged with the Together with Tenants draft plan and provided feedback to it, and we’ve also encouraged our other residents to complete the online questionnaire provided by the NHF. Our residents have seen the plan for Together with Tenants as a positive thing and felt the steps Muir has taken in recent years have also gone some way to embedding those priorities and processes.
They can see our commitment but they are also keen to see us learn from others as well, and that the measures we put in place remain contemporary and fit for purpose. For example, Muir works across more than 30 local authorities so while Together with Tenants can work at a national level; it’s also about how versatile the plan is when you consider how it filters down to impact on local priorities. Residents have a key role to play in helping provide oversight of the charter and embedding a culture that values tenant voice.
When you look at some of the drivers that have led to the Together with Tenants draft plan, they result from landlords not having processes in place to ensure tenant voices are properly respected. Together with Tenants needs to ensure accountability is not just a paper exercise, but something that shows how the tenant voice is properly welcomed, heard, valued and acted upon — demonstrating that customers are truly at the heart of what we do.
Accountability is a key thing and perhaps something as awful as Grenfell occurred because that was something previously lacking. It’s important that any performance indicators are fit for purpose to aid consistency and enable proper benchmarking and comparison; so tenants can see exactly how their landlord performs.
I think Together with Tenants will result in some great innovation throughout the sector and hopefully engage more residents who feel there are greater opportunities to make a difference regarding service standards. This can increase the confidence of tenants and prospective tenants in housing associations and social housing providers — revolutionising any stigma or negative perceptions to help deliver a sector everyone can be even more proud to be part of.