The government’s new ‘Tenant Central’ will have a significant impact on the future of social housing maintenance
As the government’s Tenant Central training programme starts to click into gear, Dave Cooke Maintenance Director of Mila Window and Door Maintenance looks at the challenges and the benefits which working more directly with tenant led bodies will bring.
“For an organisation such as ours which will clock up 25 years of working in the social housing sector in August this year, the recent announcement by the government that it is going to invest significant funding into a focussed training programme to empower tenants to have more say in the running of their estates is something which has really caught our attention”.
“We have all understood for many years the importance of good relationships with individual tenants and tenant groups, but as social housing maintenance moves to a new phase – more maintenance of products rather than replacements – this initiative is not just interesting, it is actually smart business sense”.
In the last decade as Decent Homes and a variety of other funding streams led to the availability of previously unseen sums of money to rapidly upgrade communities, while there was a new engagement on tenant choice and consultation, it was nonetheless almost wholly an out and out commercial operation with the emphasis on getting the job done ‘right now’ and little if any thought given to ‘what about tomorrow?’. While many estates benefitted from the immediacy of the funds after years of neglect, and tenant groups were increasingly included in the process, when the contractors and the consultants left there was a danger of a void developing in the relationship between landlord and tenant, and a slip backwards towards a lesser level of engagement between the two. The new Tenant Central is the vehicle which will ensure that this does not become the case, and that the on-going management of housing estates will be overseen jointly with direct dialogue between all parties. Communities, both structurally and socially, will be more sustainable in the long term as a direct result.
The Tenant Central funding is designed to help to train tenants to form their own groups to work alongside, to scrutinise, and to challenge the performance and the plans of their landlords. It is about empowering them to oversee the management of their own estates, to have an input and a genuine say into the allocation and prioritisation of resources and to ensure that the money already spent is not simply allowed to become de-valued by poor maintenance and a lack of upkeep of the products and services already installed.
In terms of maintenance it is also about ensuring that when repairs or upgrades are required they are carried out as and when needed to benefit the estate and the resident, and are not simply a part of a long term cyclical programme that often sees someone’s home at the end of a very long queue.
Dave Cooke continues “for a company whose entire business is maintenance this new empowerment represents an exciting challenge; we will definitely be on the same page as the new management groups. We know that rapid response or preferably preventative maintenance is not only the best way to be cost effective in the use of what funds are available, it has a massive social impact on all estates. A run down appearance leads to additional decay, it leads to social problems, and it drains the energy of those people who really care about the areas in which they live and who want to make a difference”.
“We have seen at first hand over many years and with many social housing clients that maintaining all the products and services on a housing estate not only brings a better quality of living to the tenants who reside there, but a very genuine improvement in the community feel of the area. Upgrading estates is fantastic as a start point, but it is the long term and on-going maintenance of the estate which really makes the difference.”
“We are really excited about this new initiative, and we know that one of our key goals must be to have the ability to offer a rapid response to the new tenant led drives for faster and more efficient turn around when repairs and maintenance are required. It is a challenge we are certainly looking forward to and will meet with great enthusiasm. We are about to complete our 1,000,000th repair in the summer of 2013 and it is great to think that when we cross that landmark threshold we will be starting all over again with a whole new set of guidelines to work to. Engagement directly with the tenants will be a big plus for everybody, and the training being initiated under the Tenant Central agreement can only be positive for all parties involved. It is a natural progression in the relationship between landlord and tenant.”
Dave Cooke is Maintenance Director of Mila Window and Door Maintenance