John Giesen our Chair of Tpas steps down after eight years

Wednesday 3rd of April 2024

A time of reckoning, change and positive progress

“Eight years in this role as the Chair of TPAS on the board of Directors, is a considerable chunk of my life and career in housing, but the huge changes we have seen in that time could not have come quickly enough.

Endings like this are always bittersweet, but it means a great deal to me to be stepping away from a cause I care so deeply about, knowing that tenants, their voices, stories, and ideas are, once again, being prioritised.

I am proud and reassured to be handing over the reins to our brilliant new Chair Alison Inman to keep building on the progress we’ve been making.

Before joining the Tpas team, I’d always admired and resonated with its values. Tpas believes that when tenants and landlords work together to improve services, they can not only save money but bring about lasting, positive change to communities. I’d seen first-hand how this was the case and felt strongly that this should be the modus operandi for housing.

Around a decade ago, I remember how much focus there was on development, new homes and generating surpluses to be invested back into communities.

As a sector, we were working to push the topic of ‘housing’ higher up the political agenda. The housing crisis, the housing shortage and the plight of first-time buyers were becoming headline news.

In many ways, it was right to focus on bringing forward new homes, but I also felt a sense of drift from the experiences of those people living in our homes and existing neighbourhoods. Where were we meaningfully involving them in the future of our organisations? Where were their stories in this narrative? Where I did see tenants, they were being othered and stereotyped in ‘reality’ television shows.

When I attended peer events, tenant engagement wasn’t a priority theme. If Tpas came up, leaders often didn’t know if they were members.  

Many of us were falling into the ‘silo’ trap. Tenant engagement was seen as the domain of housing managers.

When I started the role, I felt passionate about changing this and bringing tenant engagement and the best practice of Tpas back onto the radar.

I had been in the role of Chair for two years when The Grenfell Tower disaster happened in June 2017. Seventy-two people were killed in one of the deadliest residential fires in our country’s history.

Systemic and embedded failures had compounded to leave tenants ignored and unheard, with fatal consequences. This had to change. This was a colossal moment of reckoning.

Though the urgency needed was not there, this is when we saw government (and our own) thinking begin to shift.

Tpas became a trusted place to turn to in the scramble to change for the better.
The team’s strong relationships, values and decades of groundwork led to deeper partnerships with tenant groups. Housing Associations and local authorities turned to Tpas. When the Minister of State for Housing, Alok Sharma, began work on the housing green paper, Tpas was there from the early stages.

Since then, there has been much movement, and we are now entering a better era of tenant engagement. 

It has been humbling to play a small part in this collective progress.  The most transformational work and innovative ideas I’ve worked on have come directly from tenants. I’ve learned so much from my time listening to and co-creating alongside people who live in social housing. This work has been a high point of my career.

I could not believe more strongly in the power of tenant voice. Those Tpas members who truly get this and are working to embed genuine strategies are the ones which are setting themselves up for a thriving future. Ready for all the challenges that are ahead. Taking a ‘box ticking’ approach to tenant engagement is the opposite of what needs to happen and Tpas standards are robust with this in mind.

Reflecting on the last eight years, there has been progress and we’ve seen brilliant work taking place. Yet we know this is just the start, we have a long way to go.
It is a huge positive that tenant voice now sits at the heart of regulation and policy. We know the huge benefits and we know the challenges ahead.

We must continue to embrace this and stick to our commitments. I look forward to seeing us continue to move in the right direction with Tpas blazing that trail.”