Is it the estates that make the people or the people make the estates?
We invited Dawn Tibble, an involved tenant with Colchester Borough Homes to tell us about why she is involved with her landlord.
I have lived in social housing all my life.
I have lived in estates resembling the show ‘Shameless’, leafy conservative villages, high rise towers and town centre properties. So you could say I have experienced living in totally opposing communities.
I have found that all these areas have different ideas of maintaining their housing stock; how they treat their tenants and the safety of their tenants inside and outside their homes.
Sometimes I wonder if the estates make the people or the people make the estates?
In my experience areas that have high numbers of social stock housing tend to have the worse living conditions, lack of concern by the authorities, lack of improvement and lack of community cohesion.
Other communities that are relatively affluent, have very good social housing. I have also seen poor areas that are historically racist and blame their situation on migrants, but have well maintained housing and good community support.
So what is needed to improve our social living?
When I moved to Colchester I was pleased to see the diversity of cultures and religions, the investments in communities and good housing and community support. Yes, there are areas that need improving, but nothing is perfect.
I received an invitation to be involved as a resident to help my housing provider, Colchester Borough Homes CBH, improve their service and to influence, from a tenant’s perspective, decisions made that will affect communities either directly or indirectly.
It was the first time I knew I could have a voice and have a part in seeing change so that social housing works for everyone.
I applied to take part in areas of personal importance and interest namely diversity and equality, resident project funding, resident surveys and value for money services. I know that change does not lie with money alone; It is also the people who make better communities.
I volunteered to be an equality ambassador and have received free training and opportunities meet members of the community and to make sure that CBHs equality and diversity policies are always achieved.
Did you know that CBH has a pot that has money for community projects? Neither did I. But it’s there waiting to be applied for. Anyone can organise a project or event that will benefit their local community.
But as part of the resident involvement team I can make sure the applications are considered fairly and the money goes to something that will benefit everyone in the community. There are no dodgy handshakes for community funding.
Pretty soon I was asked to join the Tenants and Leaseholders Consultative Committee TLCC. So on behalf of tenants and leaseholders I scrutinise key performance indicators that show there could be improvements in services, costs and complaints. Based on the TLCCs findings, the Board of Executives, managers and investors can implement the recommendations and improve CBH services and value for money.
I have found being an involved resident is very rewarding. I receive free training; gain knowledge of housing policies and how the government influences the way social housing is managed; get tickets to participate in community programmes and have met some genuine people who work hard to make sure their tenants really have a good service and place to live.
Above all though I have had my voice heard, my ideas considered and been able to influence real change so that all tenants live in great communities.
I have done my part, now it is your turn to make change. If you are a landlord housing manager, involvement officer or maybe a chief executive, I urge you to look at your tenants and the skills and insight they could bring to the business.
If you’re a tenant who has stumbled upon my blog through Google, what are you waiting for? As a social tenant or leaseholder get involved with your housing provider to help change attitudes, services and communities for the better.