I’ve been involved at the heart of resident participation with my landlord for many years now. I’ve been through various mergers that promised this and offered that. Some have worked out well – others have not been given time to bed-in before we were into the next one and have therefore been less successful. So here I am now with Southern Housing as the latest landlord of my home. It’s a long-line from Swale Borough Council a few decades ago – but I’m very optimistic about what I’ve seen so far from the team, particularly with regards involving residents in their decision making.
My experience as an involved resident has on the whole, been extremely good, and I’m pleased to say this is continuing with Southern. Residents have been at the heart of everything I have been involved in. This is from events where we are getting involved in policy and strategy, to being on the Complaint Panels.
It has never been a Them and Us attitude but as a One Team approach. Residents, staff, Senior Executive Team, and the Group Board working as one.
That is what I want to have for all residents regardless of who their landlord is. All working together, listening to each other, and accepting different views. Not everything can be achieved immediately but it can be by working together. It's little steps that makes a difference and can achieve some fantastic outcomes even on projects that may have initially felt unachievable. So being a member of a group with residents from various locations and communities is something that I have always been interested in.
There has been so much information in the news recently about residents being let down by landlords, and dare I say in some instances, rightly so. But what about the good things that landlords do. They always say bad news makes good headlines and sells newspapers and other media outlets. But you seldom hear the good news on what landlords do. What happens behind the scenes is something you never hear about and that needs to be recognised too. The staff going an extra mile to help a resident with an overgrown garden. The resident unable to do heavy work due to health or age. They do a huge amount to help and support people from all sorts of backgrounds but seem to get criticised from all sides currently – the media and politicians in particular.
In recent times we are also hearing a lot about housing associations from the Housing Ombudsman, who I believe has a vital role to play on behalf of residents. If the Ombudsman can help drive up standards in the sector by investigating complaints, I am all for that – but it needs to ensure it has a balance in its determinations. I’m concerned with the increasing amounts of compensation I’ve seen awarded by them recently as part of a complaint. These sums of money ultimately come from our rent, and to my mind that would be better spent on improving our homes and services. We should therefore be using this process to help housing associations and their contractors get the job done first time, every time, as that’s all a resident really wants. Nothing else should detract from or impede this focus.
My housing association along with many others is facing a really challenging time with rising costs and the increased pressure on them from many different areas. I can see through the work I do that they really want to fix things – but there is only so much money to go around. They can’t do everything – so it needs to pick and choose. That’s where I and other residents can help them to focus on what matters to us most. It’s only been a year, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen to date from Southern and the people I’ve met. By working together, we can face the challenges we have ahead full on – wherever they come from.