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The Social Housing Green Paper - a catalyst for change?

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A huge amount has been written about the Social Housing Green Paper since its publication in August. Moans that it didn’t contain any new money to build homes rather missed the point – the government has pumped an extra £3.4bn into affordable housing in the last 18 months and a Comprehensive Spending Review is scheduled for 2019 (and the Prime Minister has since announced the first £2billion of post-2021 funding).

Gerry Doherty, Executive Director of Customer Services

This was the government focusing squarely on the relationship between landlord and resident and saying clearly that things have to change. While many of the proposals seemed less than fully formed, the tone was striking. Residents do not feel they are treated with sufficient respect or courtesy and many landlords are unresponsive when problems come up.

This seems unequivocal and there is little doubt the government will look to impose tougher regulation around consumer standards in housing, once responses to the consultation have been fully considered.

The messages coming out of Grenfell, the Hackitt Review, the Green Paper and elsewhere make it obvious social landlords need to do more to rebuild and retain the trust of residents and communities. The Future Shape of the Sector Commission, which Network Homes jointly led earlier this year, said housing associations need to ‘remake the contract’ with their residents.

Government action could be many months away, perhaps even a year. Why wait? In the end, this is something every housing association has to take individual responsibility for. League tables and performance indicators will only get us so far.

Much of this is about the way we engage with our residents. The way we communicate, the respect we show in every interaction, the clarity of our service offer, how residents are invited to shape and support our policies, and the attitude of our people delivering customer service.

Network Homes is working now on proposals to improve our accountability and transparency to residents, including consulting as many residents as we can about what needs to change.

We’re rebuilding our service offer from the bottom up and we’ll publish the final version clearly and consistently, to try to ensure all residents understand what we can do and what they are responsible for, and the feedback we need on how we’re performing.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.