DCLG urged to back new national tenant voice

All four NTOs want a ‘coherent, legitimate and empowered’ voice for tenants to communicate directly with government and other agencies.

Money management help for Newcastle tenants

The four NTOs are speaking as one on the need for a single national tenant voice post Grenfell.

Taroe Trust, CCH, NFTMO and Tpas met at the CIH Housing Conference to make the call in a letter to DCLG – shared with a long list of stakeholders.

All four agree that work now being done to ensure the safety of social housing tenants demonstrates the need for a ‘coherent, legitimate and empowered’ voice for tenants, so that they can communicate directly with government and other agencies about a wide range of issues.

The letter cites the proposals of professor Martin Cave – in his report Every Tenant Matters released 10 years ago – that a single voice should enable tenants to be heard in government.

NTOs and other tenants worked with the DCLG to establish the National Tenant Voice from 2007 to 2009.

An interim National Tenant Voice committee is being established now, made up of former board members of the National Tenant Voice, representatives from the four NTOS and others.

This proposed group is pitched as having the most legitimacy to speak for social housing tenants nationally at the present time.

The short-term proposals involved this ‘interim’ committee works in partnership with DCLG officials and others to:

  • Assist and be involved in current and future reviews of safety frameworks affecting social housing tenants and consider how safety frameworks are regulated and inspected
  • Assist and be involved in discussions regarding the effectiveness of tenant empowerment frameworks in the social housing sector and how they are regulated and inspected, enabling a broad dialogue with tenants and landlords across the sector
  • Assist and be involved in shaping how the new social housing regulator will be established and ensure it is in touch with the needs of tenants
  • Assist and be involved in shaping how the new social housing regulator will be established and ensure it is in touch with the needs of tenants
  • Consider the best ways to establish a new National Tenant Voice that is as reflective as it can be of the diversity of the tenant sector.

The letter says that achieving these ends will require the following from government:

  • Recognition that a new National Tenant Voice is necessary
  • Resources during the set-up stages of a new National Tenant Voice and a commitment to consider resource implications in the longer term – although longer term resources may come from a variety of sources
  • Access to officers from the DCLG and the Social Housing Regulator.

Case study – the Taroe Trust on a single tenant voice

“The appalling and horrific events that have unfolded at Grenfell is a stark reminder of the perils of austerity and the failure to give consumers a voice.

“Indeed, as some of the events leading to Grenfell have unfolded we have learnt how there are plenty of tenants voicing disquiet with the safety and standards of their housing.

“Unfortunately, they fell on the deaf ears of authorities pre-occupied with economic regulation, increased efficiency and new developments of ‘non-affordable’ housing.

“Well governed and financially viable landlords are a vital component to the undoubted need to solve the shortage of affordable housing.

“Essential, but not enough.

“It is exactly 10 years since the publication of the Cave Review of Social Housing Regulation.

“In the aftermath of Grenfell, its title is a harrowing reminder of what can happen when the recommendations of this seminal piece are not heeded – ‘Every tenant matters’.

“Over this period we have witnessed the emergence of an increasingly polarised and divided society. We have increasing consensus that the housing market is broken.

“The Cave Review made the case that tenants living in social housing require effective regulation so that they can be protected.

“As the focus has shifted more and more to economics, consumer standards have been sidelined and once again it is the most vulnerable that have paid the price most dearly.

“It is useful to reflect on the three identified objectives of regulation identified in the Cave Review to ensure continued provision of high quality social housing, to empower and protect tenants, and expand the availability of choice of provider at all levels in the provision of social housing.

“With existing systems, can we be sure that we have consistently high quality housing in the sector? Are tenants empowered?

“We know already that they are not protected, and the daily stories of the victims of Grenfell highlight the lack of choice available for the millions of people living in the ‘regulated’ housing sector.

“As the merry-go-round of social housing regulation is set for another shake-up with the split of the Homes and Communities Agency and the establishment of a separate Social Housing Regulator, TAROE Trust calls upon the government to sit up and take note of the recommendations now made a decade ago:

  • Tenants need to be given a properly funded tenant voice to represent their interests in national debates
  • Tenants need extra protection, particularly the most vulnerable
  • Tenants need real power to influence the quality of services and hold landlords to account.

“These are not revolutionary demands. It is not a call to create a cottage industry.

“They are humble requests to value the dignity of every person… including tenants.

“The recent history of social housing is filled with missed opportunities.

“Failure to implement the recommendations of the Cave Review is one such example.

“We cannot and must not allow the horrors of Grenfell to happen again”.

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