There have long been calls for tenants to become more involved and empowered in social housing. With the UK government’s publication of the Government’s Social Housing Green Paper, and the recent abolition of the borrowing cap, there’s a real possibility social housing could see a much-needed resurgence.
But, importantly, we can make these new council and social housing opportunities an integrated part of communities, becoming places where people are proud and happy to live. If this is the goal, there needs to be more involvement from current and former tenants. These are the people who can shed light on the best steps forward for the communities these houses impact.
The school of social housing
Councils are already empowering tenants of social housing to become involved in management. In Lewisham, South London, Jim Ripley came up with The Phoenix Academy. As the CEO of Phoenix, a housing association, he set up the academy in 2014 to help residents of their community housing projects get involved and potentially take up future positions on board and committees. Essentially, what Phoenix created is a school of social housing.
Staff and residents at Phoenix deliver the Level 1 course. This course focuses on the history of social housing, asset management, models of governance, housing finance, and more essential topics for future leaders. The aim is to make the housing system accessible and clear to all. They discuss everything, from how you prioritise repairs to managing risk. Incredibly, these classes are free for Phoenix residents.
The Phoenix Academy also hosts Level 2 and Level 3 courses with more advanced knowledge and professional, external teachers. But the goal of the classes is to increase people’s confidence in the housing industry. Having tenants on boards and committees is valuable to both tenants, housing associations, and councils.
The value of tenant input
Getting tenants involved in the decision-making process in housing associations has many benefits. It breaks down barriers between residents and associations so management is no longer an ‘us vs them’ battle. Instead, it’s a collaboration where tenants and association managers can make decisions to benefit both parties.
There has historically been tension between councils, housing associations, and tenants. Tenants have felt that top-down decisions aren’t in the best interest of their wellbeing and they often feel powerless to change this.
But new incentives empower residents and give them the agency they need to influence the future of their own communities. They also help housing associations and councils make decisions that better their success socially and financially.
So far, the Phoenix Academy has had 180 graduates. Three have become board members while others have joined a resident-led scrutiny committee, all aimed at providing better housing. As we continue to focus on providing high-quality social housing across the UK, perhaps schemes like this will become more prevalent.
Inform People’s platform is easily tailored to fit the needs of modern social housing associations and councils. Our comprehensive safety audits, knowledge base, messaging tool, and insights allow you to automatically share selected information with tenants and other staff on a need-to-know basis, boosting communication between you and your tenants. For more information about how Inform People promotes easy communication, visit our website or call us on 0161 713 4104.