Deeds not Words

Thursday 2nd of February 2023

I have been thinking a lot recently about change and the belief that we as a country are resistant to change. I have even had it suggested to me that the unofficial motto of England should be “but we have always done it this way.”

In social housing we are, if you like it or not, heading towards a year of great change with the social housing regulation bill coming into effect in April. But I’m increasingly wondering:

  • Are we ready for that change?
  • Are we taking it seriously?
  • Are we ready for the consequences of not taking it seriously?

New consumer regulation on its own isn’t going to be the remedy for all the sectors ills. Tenants are not going to suddenly feel more empowered and safer in their homes because of a yearly perception survey and occasional inspections. What the sector needs, and what the tenants I have been talking to tell me they desperately want, is action. We need, to quote suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, “Deeds not Words”.

Now I’m not arguing for the extremes of action that the Suffragettes were advocating but we do need to see real movement on the issues of concern.

Decent Homes Standard

We have had the consultation at the tail end of last year, but we have seen no more on this from DLUHC yet. We have seen from the results of the CIH and NHF “Better Social Housing Review” and its call for the sector to go back to the basics of its values and core stock, but what does that practically mean and how is the sector going to work with tenants to ensure a meaningful action plan is drawn up with standards that are understood and approved by tenants.

Damp and Mould

The government called for housing providers to provide damp and mould action plans for immediate use but we find in a recent Housing Ombudsman survey of 40 landlords that received 26 responses that only 35% of them had introduced a specific damp and mould policy.

I can anecdotally back this up with information from a recent national gathering of over 50 tenant scrutineers from over 30 providers. Of those attending only three of them had seen a damp and mould plan and the rest hadn’t. Here is a clear example where providers could show their keenness to work within the new standards to embrace a new proactive landlord/ tenant co-working relationship. I hope this is just a bump in the road to a new consumer regulatory regime otherwise it's going to be a rocky ride.

I am optimistic for 2023 but we need to embrace the new opportunities we face this year. The temptation will be to think it’s something we have seen before not to be taken seriously or to be fobbed off with fine words that have no plans behind them. We owe it to those who have suffered and are suffering, to those who need us, to remember and embrace the founding principles of social housing. We need deeds not words.