Regeneration: How important is independent resident advice?
Thursday 6th of October 2016
Piece by our Consultancy Manager Kate Newbolt.
Wow what’s going on? At Tpas we are really busy lately responding to calls from people who are concerned about regeneration plans for their areas and want to know how they will be affected, what rights they have and what kind of help and support they can expect from their local council and the developers involved.
Personally, I’m a bit surprised that so many do not have information and details of an appointed independent Resident’s Adviser because the process should always provide this as a minimum.
Depending on the scale of regeneration planned and the range of change being considered for the area, things can become quite complex. Obviously local residents will want the re-assurance of knowing that good quality advice and information is available, accessible and will be directly provided throughout development and delivery of proposals. They will want the assurance of knowing that this advice is provided with no vested interest and a commitment to residents and communities.
Where local people hear informally that their homes might be affected by demolition or refurbishment, concerns quickly lead to anxiety for residents. The fear of what people don’t know becomes the source of significant anxieties. These worries, in addition to the current and critical housing shortage, are quite frankly a recipe for problems and community mistrust; it just does not make sense.
Some cynical readers may say that of course Tpas, as an established independent resident adviser, would publish this blog criticising the lack of one. I agree, but it’s not about Tpas income streams. It is however definitely about our commitment to communities, our strong belief that residents are entitled to be well-informed, consulted and equipped with details that may affect their future housing and community security.
An independent resident adviser provides an unbiased source of information checked by experts for the whole community. The service paid for by those proposing change agrees firm independent boundaries focused on translating plans and ensuring that those residents affected have direct access to independent advice, specialist sessions about the particular options worrying people, concerns about rehousing, home loss, disturbance, financial help and support.
Some residents may need specialist help and an independent residents’ adviser will have responsibility for ensuring that all needs are fully met so that they are not disadvantaged in any way.
Ultimately, all residents have legal rights when a regeneration area is announced and the Independent Resident’s Adviser ensures that all are well-informed, supported and fully aware of their options and any implications that may affect them.
These legal rights affect different types of residents in different ways. For example, re-housing options would be different for social housing tenants and private tenants and homeowners and leaseholders would also have different rights.
Costs of refurbishment may have particular financial implications for leaseholders and local policies may present affordability issues where specialist help will be needed. Some people may need to move out of their home permanently or temporarily and they may be entitled to different forms of support depending on their personal circumstances.
There may also be other worries for households who have particular health and support needs but the adviser can help to negotiate with landlords and developers. There may be scope for communities to influence proposals for estate and property design, choice of developers and involvement, influence and consultation options.
All of the above helps to ensure that the process is fair, informative and inclusive which also means things are more likely to run smoothly and most of all, to ensure that those affected will have more confidence as the regeneration programme takes its course.
Independent Resident Advisers work with communities to collectively involve residents in the plans, solutions and decisions being made about the areas, buildings and the environment they live in. They assist residents to agree standards and terms for resident involvement and ensure that groups benefit from learning and knowledge needed to be effective in these roles.
Independent Resident Advisers also provide individual support to residents guiding them through the process with particular focus on factors affecting their individual households by engaging with them in the ways that suits them best.
The arrangements set in place for residents and communities should be published with direct contacts provided to all. This information should be provided in different formats to meet the communication needs of all residents making it easy for them to access independent advice. It’s not just good practice, it’s essential.
If you think you may be affected by regeneration proposals you should speak to your local council and, where relevant, your landlord to find out who the appointed Independent Resident Adviser is and how you can contact them. You may also have local community representatives in place and so it is always worthwhile asking about how you can contact these groups.