The government has now published its Social Housing White Paper, which aims to deliver the improvement in transparency and accountability promised in the 2018 green paper.
The paper sets out a charter for social housing residents and outlines plans for new regulation, a strengthened Housing Ombudsman to speed up complaints, and a set of tenant satisfaction measures that social landlords will have to report against.
The charter sets out seven commitments that residents should expect from their landlord and echoes many of the commitments housing associations are making in the National Housing Federation's Together with Tenants charter, particularly on tenant voice, relationships, accountability, quality, and complaints.
The Social Housing Green Paper (SHGP) devoted an entire chapter to addressing the issue of stigmatisation, yet there is no mention of tackling stigma in the White Paper and chapter seven of the white paper is devoted to promoting home ownership as an ambition every social housing tenant should aspire to, promoting the idea that social housing is not seen as a highly valued tenancy of choice giving long term affordability, stability and building better communities. There is also very little about building social homes for social rent and the proposal for a stronger national tenants voice at national level.
BCHA’s chief executive, Martin Hancock said:
"I share the ambition of the government and believe tenants should live in safe and comfortable homes and feel connected to us, their landlords. I want all our customers to trust that we will listen and address issues when things go wrong and know we have their best interests at heart. There is more we can do to improve.
"BCHA has always strived to provide more truly affordable, good quality homes and we want to continue with this goal, as set out in our five-year business plan. We are committed to working with customers to build better homes, better lives and better communities and are working with our customers to adopt the National Housing Federation’s Together with Tenants charter to embed good practice within our organisation and ensure we work with the social housing regulator to make BCHA a landlord of choice.
"Customer Focus, Homes of Choice, and Working Together are already the three key themes in our 2020-25 Business Plan launched earlier this year, demonstrating the board and leadership teams’ ambition and genuine commitment, which is definitely in line with the white paper and goes beyond those expectations. We are working on using devices and technology to make our homes smarter, safer and more energy efficient, with safety always being our number one priority.
"We are steadfast in investing in more properties and part of that aim is to acquire properties not only for shorter term homelessness accommodation, but also long term social rented tenancies for people on lower incomes, which we know is the desire of many of our current customers. The safety and security that this continuity provides, enables people to move forward with their lives and have more choices. Lower rents mean that they have some money left for saving towards other needs and desires in life.
"For some this may mean being able to aspire towards home ownership where shared ownerships options will be the way forward and we will look to support this as best we can.
"Published analysis shows we need to be building 300,000 homes a year and at least 90,000 social rented homes – this should be the government’s focus to enable more affordable homes to buy and rent in both the private sector and the social housing sector.
"We are eager to sign up to this charter and already offer all our customers a range of opportunities to get involved and monitor this via our Customer Engagement Working Group.
"We have a number of peer mentoring opportunities in several of our services where lived experience can be shared and used to support others experiencing a similar journey. We hold surveys, send regular Tenant Talk magazines, invite tenants to volunteer with us and learn new skills and have a newly formed scrutiny panel.
"Our aim is to embed the customer voice into everything we do and Together with Tenants will be a journey that we take together to ensure we do this.”
Key aspects of the charter are:
- A change to the NHF code of Governance. Boards will agree to be accountable to all customers
- The Trust Charter- a clear set of commitments for customers on what they can expect from BCHA
- Customer oversight and scrutiny of the Trust Charter- so customers know exactly what to expect from BCHA
- Customer oversight and scrutiny of the Trust Charter- so customers know exactly what they can expect from BCHA
By signing up to the charter BCHA will commit to:
Relationships – BCHA will treat all customers with respect in all of their interactions. Relationships between customers and BCHA will be based on openness, honesty and transparency.
Communication – Our customers will receive clear, accessible and timely information from their housing association on the issues that matter to them, including important information about their homes and local community, how the organisation is working to address problems, how the organisation is run, and information about performance on key issues.
Voice and influence – Views from our customers will be sought and valued and this information will be used to inform decisions. Every individual will feel listened to by BCHA on the issues that matter to them and can speak without fear.
Accountability – Collectively, customers will work in partnership with BCHA to independently scrutinise and hold us to account for the decisions that affect the quality of their homes and services.
Quality – Customers can expect their homes to be good quality, well maintained, safe and well managed.
When things go wrong – Customers will have simple and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress. They will receive timely advice and support when things go wrong.