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Social Housing Speed Read – The importance of empowerment: demand grows for a national body for tenants

In this week's Speed Read, we discuss the renewed calls for a national representative tenants' organisation to be established, which was proposed in the Social Housing Green Paper, A New Deal for Social Housing (the Green Paper).

The proposal

As you may recall, in last week’s Speed Read, we discussed the proposal to introduce social landlord league tables which was featured in the Green Paper, which received strong criticism by many within the sector. As we discussed, Simon Dow, interim chair of the Regulator of Social Housing, argued that no ‘compelling case for what to do instead’ had been proposed. However, it seems that the Green Paper itself featured a proposal which many believe would better empower residents; establishing ‘an independent platform for tenants, based on widespread engagement, to enable them to have their voices heard more effectively at a national level’.

A core aim of the Green Paper was to empower residents, and noted that many tenants they engaged with opined that social landlords’ performance should be monitored by an independent authority, so that tenants would be aware if their landlord was not performing satisfactorily, and could hold them accountable and influence real change within the sector.

The Green Paper focused on the wellbeing of tenants living in England’s four million social homes, and recognised the need to rebalance the relationship between landlords and tenants, after tenants expressed frustrations that ‘efforts to be meaningfully involved with the management of [their] homes have been extremely difficult’. The proposal of a national body for tenants, which the Government acknowledged must ‘represent the voices of a wide diversity of tenants’, could renew tenants’ confidence in social landlords and inform Government of key concerns and demands within the sector.

The proposal for a national organisation for tenants is not new; in his paper Every Tenant Matters, published in 2007, Martin Cave proposed ‘the creation of a national tenant voice’ to advocate for them in national debates, and engage in dialogue with regulators and registered providers’ representative bodies.

Support within the sector

A Voice for Tenants (“AV4T”), is a steering group which was established following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with the singular aim of campaigning for a national body for tenants. As part of their response to the Green Paper, the organisation surveyed tenants and found that of 832 respondents, 93% stated that there needs to be a national voice for tenants. Further still, 87% felt that their views are not heard by the government and many felt that their landlords do not listen to them.

The Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH) aided the publication of AV4T’s response to the Green Paper, and the National Housing Federation also ‘supports their call for a national tenant voice organisation’.

Writing for Inside Housing, Pat Turnbull of the London Tenants Federation stated that whilst the proposal of a national representative body of tenants is welcomed, such an organisation must have solid grass root support, and the structure of such a body must accommodate the ‘regional differences in terms of need and affordability of housing’.

Future of the proposal

It appears that the proposal of a national body for tenants has received widespread support from many within the sector, and it seems likely that this positive response will be reflected in the feedback regarding the Green Paper’s proposals.

If such an organisation was established effectively, it is hoped that social landlords will reap the benefits of positive engagement with their tenants. We eagerly await the Government’s outcome to the public feedback.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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