Social housing regulations
To create impactful change, we need to do more than listen to tenants’ concerns – we need to inspire action.
Everyone has the right to a safe home and if they are renting, the ability to feedback on any concerns that might affect this. This is why new suggested laws protecting tenants have been welcomed – earlier this year a white paper was released outlining Social Housing Regulation Bill, putting forward a host of potential reforms to the regulation of the sector.
Amongst this new legislation is the improvement of transparency. Housing associations will now be subject to a Freedom of Information-style information-sharing process – requiring social landlords to give tenants information relating to their accommodation, facilities, or services.
The Housing Ombudsman was also granted new powers – which included the ability to refer more cases to the regulator and to issue complaint-handling orders against poorly performing landlords – in September 2020.
The purpose of a complaint-handling failure order is to ensure that a landlord’s complaint-handling process is accessible and consistent, and that it enables the timely progression of complaints for residents, as set out in the Housing Ombudsman’s complaint-handling code.
To put it simply, social housing landlords and Housing associations now need to – and have a responsibility to – evidence that they have not only listened to their tenants’ concerns, but actively engaged with them to share further information or next steps.
There is still a duty of care that remains beyond this. What does it really take to truly be open and transparent and listen to the lived experiences of your tenants? And how can you translate this into action to create meaningful impactful change that will improve safety?
Creating transparency and promoting engagement
This marks a significant shift for Landlords. While many would argue that they have already have processes in place for listening to tenant feedback, more can always be done to improve transparency of requests. whether that’s to the enquirer or to other tenants, and what exactly has been done to address issues.
Andy Hulme, chief executive of Hyde Housing Association and G15 member said of the reforms, “The problem is we are literally ticking the boxes,” and questioned whether tenants feel or see that. “Some of that is money and we’ve got to find a solution to that. But some of it actually is that we don’t care enough. There’s not enough accountability, there’s not a culture that drives brilliant outcomes” He continued.
Building transparency can’t be done overnight. It comes from the proof that you are addressing issues openly – not just behind closed doors, but that you’re also enabling tenants to openly have dialogue with each other as best as possible.
There’s likely to be tenants within social housing communities that aren’t aware of all the feedback processes that exist. For example, they may have received a survey in person, but they might not know about or be available to take part in a focus group to discuss actions.
At that point their opinion has been lost forever. To create a more open culture, housing associations need to find a way to enable the opportunity for involvement anytime, anywhere.
However, there is also an education element that needs to be done to make people aware of what processes exist and the platforms available for their voice to be heard.
Creating impactful change
The key to converting this process into trust is to facilitate behaviour change on all fronts. For example, without a centralised location for updates, a tenant might send 10 emails about a concern without knowing that steps are in place to address it. This can be frustrating for all involved.
By having a transparent process where a person sends one message, it’s actioned or addressed, and they can see that, you are encouraging a wider behaviour change and harnessing a process of trust.
Take it if someone asks a question about fire safety and doesn’t receive a response, they are likely to feel ignored, and will either continue to push until something happens or let it drop – both risking the feeling of being put off by that process.
Yet, if they could see their question had been read and actively received some engagement such as resources being shared or some information on an upcoming inspection, they will feel valued.
By quickly actioning these steps, the community begins to feel valued and looked after by the housing association who have their best interests at heart.
By implementing the right consultation process and encouraging tenants to understand it, you can take the first steps to open and transparent feedback, leading to clearer actions for addressing issues.
Creating one place where everyone can come together and voice their concerns allows you not only have a clear record that feedback has been collected, but also evidence it’s been engaged with. The benefit of this is that you can present to the tenants and governing bodies that you’re acknowledging and actioning feedback appropriately.
The right engagement platform will have an audit trail to track who has been commenting and feeding back or taking part in surveys. A platform such as Granicus’ EngagementHQ creates this transparency between the Housing Associations and the tenants. This includes eight different tools to capture feedback.
Ranging from the privacy of conducting a survey to hosting online forums which let your tenants know that you’re capturing that feedback openly, these tools provide a plethora of engagement.
Alongside this there is an essential awareness piece that needs to be done, and here should sit a communications tool to create the targeted messaging, such as an email newsletter with details on how to access the platform, and the clarity on what is being done in response to feedback. There is now a big drive to engage with tenants and make sure that they are kept up to date, which can be achieved by building that transparency.
We encourage our customers to have a robust signup form where they can identify key locations and further demographic information, enabling them to drive information or content to a specific block or housing area.
This means that if something is only a challenge within that location, they’re not bombarding people with irrelevant content that could otherwise encourage people to disengage.
To create a fully end-to-end solution, it’s important that your engagement platform and communication platform can fully integrate to allow data to be pulled from one place to the other. This creates an ultimate picture of the full process.
For many tenants, this is an incredibly emotive subject and understandably so. For years, many have felt ignored, or that time and money is more important than their safety. But by taking small steps towards a more open culture, we can begin the shift this perception.