It's admirable how our residents have risen to those challenges to support us in being 'large and local' and by being our critical friend, whilst also being patient and persevering whilst our two legacy organisations integrate.
We co-created the new structure with our residents by establishing a resident governance working group, formed of residents from each legacy organisation in a 50:50 split. The working group heard from various organisations, not just within the social housing sector, about how they are seeking and acting upon feedback from their residents or customers. Using these best practice examples as inspiration, the working group then went about designing a new resident governance framework, which was approved by Board.
Our highlights in year one
- Our recruitment campaign received nearly a thousand applicants. We doubled the number of involved residents to approximately 90, demonstrating how residents are as keen as ever in wanting to be involved.
- We improved the diversity of our involved residents which underpins our commitment to having a broad and representative customer base. 59% of our involved residents are female, 37% are from an ethnic minority background, 34% are living with a disability, 12% are LGBTQ+ and ages range from 24-71.
- Residents and colleagues worked at pace to develop and implement our new involvement framework. This meant that every panel within our new framework, whether it was a regional panel or service specific panel, was established and had met within the first three months of merger. Panels have been instrumental in shaping and influencing a range of policies and strategies for Southern Housing, including anti-social behaviour, pets, electric vehicle charging, fire safety and sustainability.
- We benchmarked our six-month Tenant Satisfaction Measures with our G15 peers which identified us as top for the measure on ‘Satisfaction that the landlord listens to tenant views and acts upon them.’
- A year on from merger members of our Resident Strategy Group, Board, Executive Team and operational colleagues had their first away day as Southern Housing. It was a rewarding day and a good opportunity to build our ‘one’ Southern Housing team, and to understand where best to focus our attention in 2024-25.
My top five tips for effective resident governance
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: Healthy tension is a good thing, be comfortable with constructive, fair and honest challenge and feedback. A good friend tells you what you need to know, not what you want to know.
- Openness: Be transparent and share all relevant data and information, tell it as it objectively is.
- Diversity: Diversity is crucial in reaching better quality informed opinions and decisions. We are fortunate enough to have residents with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. This helps to enrich discussions and keeps us grounded in reality.
- Resources: Supporting effective resident governance is hard but rewarding work. We‘re lucky to have a team that is dedicated, passionate and driven. They are key to genuine engagement, building capacity amongst our involved residents and getting the best out of our panels.
- Top level commitment: Each of our resident panels has a Board member linked to it which keeps the Board connected with the voice of the customer. We consult residents on the decisions that affect them and this is promoted and supported by senior colleagues within the organisation. We have also reserved four of the twelve places on our Board for residents, a figure we believe is unsurpassed in the sector.
We know that every regulatory problem case is, at root, about governance. Governance is also our strongest line of defence. So I’m keen that our resident governance framework continues to remain fit for purpose and is in good shape for the new regulatory landscape from April this year. That’s why we’re going to be working with our residents and the Tenant Participation and Advisory Service to review our framework one year on (a merger promise), build on what works well and ensure we’re match fit to support really effective resident scrutiny and oversight across our organisation.