August 2012 (Issue 51)
The cover concept for our August edition prompted much animated discussion in the 24housing of office.
There were some, including myself, who thought a cover based on an infographic was a wonderful way to represent this month’s main feature about communicating welfare reform – while others just didn’t get it at all.
It could be said, if I were in anyway philosophical, that our cover dilemma sums up one of the key problems landlords currently face in trying to inform tenants of the benefit changes that are about to come their way. It’s not only about getting the message right, but finding the right vehicle with which to deliver it.
As far as I can tell, the majority of housing providers are putting their faith in orthodox methods of communication – roadshows, door-knocking, leaflet drops, newsletters etc - rather than seeking more innovative solutions. But surely, at a time when smart phone usage is at an all-time high and social media such as Twitter and Facebook are becoming all-consuming – communication strategies should be flexible enough to ensure all tenants get the message, including those that have no interest in hearing from their landlord.
While infographics are undoubtedly a useful communication tool for presenting complex information in a simple, easy-to-understand way, they are nothing new. But Halton Housing Trust was hailed as some sort of pioneer in the sector when it chose to use this method. In actual fact, such forms of communication should now be the norm.
Welfare reform and the impact it will have on both landlords and tenants is huge, the response of housing providers in terms of engaging with residents and communicating these changes needs to reflect this. To find out about some of the more innovative approaches, turn to page 20.
Elsewhere in this issue, Kate Murray interviews former Tenant Services Authority chair Anthony Mayer about life behind the scenes at the short-lived social housing regulator. “I had 18 months setting it up and 18 months to close it,” he reveals.
We also talk to Jan Luba, the QC in charge of the Southwark Housing Commission, whose investigation into the south London borough’s housing stock could help to shape the future of council housing in this country.