Let’s Talk About Trust

Thursday 22nd of June 2023

We in Social Housing are seemingly stuck in a whirlwind of change. New regulations, new focus on professionalism, and a new housing minister every week. To use another metaphor, we seem to be on a speeding train that doesn’t seem to stop. But what does this change all mean and how will we know when the ride stops (or at least slows down), if it’s all going to work?


It’s all about trust.


Successful social housing is built on relationships and maintaining those relationships is the key to success but, like in our personal lives, trust plays a major role in ensuring those relationships work. For governments of any political stripe, they need to ditch the rhetoric and start open and honest conversations about where we are going. We need these conversations to be focussed on where the true need is and not based on any ideological foundation. Everyone agrees we need new homes, everyone agrees we need we need to better maintain the existing ones we have. The how and when are the fundamental questions we must find consensus on and fast. 


A safe and secure home should be a human right; it helps define who we are, it gives us our security our sense of identity and community. A home is the foundation for our journey through life. It’s sometimes our only constant and for that reason alone it should be protected and maintained. To me, this can be defined in no better way than by poet Maya Angelou “the Ache for Home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned,”


Social Housing providers need to be clear in their identity and purpose. The Chartered Institute of Housing and National Housing Federation’s independently led Better Social Housing Review called for a return to a “back to the basics” approach with regards to housing delivery. After listening to people from across the sector, tenant and staff alike, the need was expressed to go back to those building blocks of communication and trust. More housing staff that are better paid, a community focus that prioritises existing stock. 


It's hard for tenants and landlords to develop a trusting relationship. Decades of underfunding and tragic examples of neglect have rightly created a sense of anger that needs to be heard. We can’t afford to be led by the next tragedy shaking our heads and saying, ‘never again’. Trust is gained by action not words. We do have a pathway to build this trust; new consumer regulation and a refreshed political focus on housing gives us a window of opportunity, but to strengthen and grow this relationship we need to approach it as equals. From government we need resource, legislation, and clear purpose, alongside a system of regulation and oversight with real teeth. We are partly there but still have a long way to go.


From Landlords we need to celebrate and share success but also gain strength from learning from the mistakes that have been made. Tenants need to be seen as full partners in this process and be able to see their housing provider for what it is, warts and all.  A two-way flow of information is vital for a person to feel safe and comfortable in their home, there needs to be a way to influence and have a say over their environment. 


But most importantly we need to draw a line in the sand when it comes to people’s homes. We need to say that the right to a home is just that: a fundamental right. The right to feel safe in your home should be a given and unquestioned, and the right to have a voice and say in how your home is maintained and managed should be seen as the golden thread that binds our sector together. Only then can we start to build trust.