Have A Seat At The Table

Monday 5th of February 2024

In this blog, Kai Jackson, an associate at tenant engagement experts Tpas, discusses a new study designed to understand the barriers faced by people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The study aims to promote fair and inclusive services, exploring ways to improve the participation of tenants from ethnic minority backgrounds in landlords' influencing structures for a more representative and diverse community.

Sometimes, we set out on journeys and never know where it would take us; here I am about to see a dream come to life, so how did I get here?

So, I became the chair of my scrutiny panel in 2021, and since then, I have immersed myself in the role; if you’re going to do something, you should do it wholeheartedly. I attended mainly Tpas national meetings and other sector conferences and events. When I participated in these events, I would look around and see very few, if not only myself, as a tenant of colour. The more events I attended, the more it became apparent that this wasn’t an isolated occurrence. I learned more about tenant engagement and how it could impact people’s lives, e.g., homes, services provided and communities. I thought the sector was missing out on a perspective of lived experience that is valuable to make fundamental changes for all tenants. 

By observation, there was a noticeable lack of representation from the people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and the few black and brown tenants I spoke to all stated they were fed up with the poor services provided by their landlord and wanted to make their voices heard but seemed to find it difficult getting organised with their landlord to make impactful changes.
I had a consistent nagging feeling that something needed to be done; equitable changes would only be made if we had everyone seated around the table and sharing experiences and ideas, but not everyone seemed to know there was a seat available. 

I looked into the history of minority ethnic tenants in social housing, from the Windrush era to more recent studies, and the findings were consistent with a lack of trust with landlords, poor quality homes and nothing getting better. From the research and conversations, I understood the issue, but also, through my research, I noticed there was no official data or study directly aimed at asking those tenants from these communities why they do not get involved in formal tenant engagement. Most studies have skated around the subject, but the only way the sector would understand is to ask the question directly. 

Given the perceived lack of ethnic diversity and the impact that this could have, particularly given the enhanced role tenants will be playing in the new regulatory framework, my research is seeking to explore if underrepresentation is an issue and, if so, why this is, and what can be done to improve participation of tenants from ethnic minority backgrounds in Landlords influencing structures.

The importance of this project is to promote fair, equitable service offered to all tenants under the supported framework of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, which needs to be more than just strategic planning with the purpose of implementation and embedded in the landlord’s culture. Although many protected characteristics exist (Equality Act 2010), and the housing sector is working on supporting them, my project is aimed at the communities from ethnic minority backgrounds. Still, it is not meant to divide or treat one demographic more favourably than others. This project seeks to explore and understand an area with no available data and support those who may find it difficult to access information and have their voices heard.

The question now is, what outcomes do I want to see from this project? Well, I believe I have answered that question earlier in this article with more equitable engagement and for staff to have a more targeted approach to accessing diverse communities. I believe this should be a part of the regulatory framework where organisations should know the diversity of their tenant panels and have a more representative tenant engagement structure that represents their wider tenant population. The Social Housing Act 2023 states the importance of having the tenant's voice heard, which is just as important as that of board members, so representation does matter. I hope that as many people from the ethnic minority backgrounds will participate and that staff will use this survey to reach more diverse tenants.

You can read more about Kai’s study here and here’s the link to the survey. 

Social Housing Tenant Survey

Social Housing Staff Survey

Gareth Young, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, CaCHE, commented: "I am delighted to support Kai's project because it addresses a critical gap in understanding the challenges faced by tenants from ethnic minority backgrounds in formal engagement. By contributing to this research, we are building new partnerships across the housing sector to help diversify the work we do, and to help use our platform to support incredibly important work that will help continue to build momentum for positive changes to ensure we foster greater equality in the housing system."

Louise Holt, Head of Business Service, Tpas England, added: "At Tpas, we believe in amplifying tenant voices, and Kai's project aligns perfectly with our commitment to inclusivity. By supporting this study, we hope to uncover insights that will drive positive change, ensuring that the BAME community's perspectives are not only heard but also actively considered in shaping the future of tenant engagement and services."