Prime time documentaries on housing squalor. Thousands of negative comments on Twitter. Being called out by Michael Gove. Is this fair? Aren’t Social Housing providers supposed to be the good ones…?
The poor quality, unacceptable living conditions and, in a few cases, the safety of some homes is the social housing sector’s ‘me too’ moment. The ignored complaints of the Grenfell residents are the worst and most tragic example of this, but it is also playing out daily on social and national media. Pictures and clips of unacceptable living conditions make for very uncomfortable viewing.
We should acknowledge that there has been a lot of effort put in to trying to address problems, but some are really, really complex, and expensive. They’re hard to put right, and so they are slow to fix. And maybe priorities haven’t been quite right. Maybe the business models and appraisals need to reflect the level of investment and management that some of the existing (and new!) housing requires.
The Social Housing Regulation Bill, Ombudsman and Regulator of Social Housing offer a step-change, but it’s slow. And in the meantime, we see the Trustpilot reviews of one or two out of five for HAs. These reviews are unlikely to be a true reflection, but would you buy anything or use a service from someone with those ratings?
What to do?
So what can be done immediately by Social Housing providers? To be fair, most landlords are doing what they can. There are some that still suffer from what the Regulator calls ‘institutional indifference’ and blame other people – government, local planners, developers.
But there are ways of getting on top of this situation, where you can have an immediate impact on what seem like entrenched, knotty problems. Taking an immediate, medium and longer term approach will help you respond. It won’t fix everything overnight, but it challenges the current way of doing things and improves services for your residents.
What needs to be addressed:
- The visibility and communication with the resident
- Data and insight on the scale of the problem
- How you prioritise work and resource within the HA
- Quick and robust improvements to task management, processes and technology
- The responsibility and accountability for work
It’s about leadership, filling in the gaps, and empowering local decision-making and accountability.
Both inside and outside the sector, we all acknowledge that the situation is serious and threatens to grow larger and larger. We need to throw all we have at it so that residents have a healthy, safe and secure home.
I’ve been in Housing a long, long time; the current situation is heartbreaking and I want to see this sector bloom again. If enough of us try, it will.