Communities Minister Don Foster today (12 September 2013) announced he is taking action to increase the number of tenant organisations across England. This will give social tenants more powers to hold their landlord to account and a greater say in how to run their community.
To boost numbers of tenant organisations the government is providing £400,000 for at least 1,200 tenants to attend training courses in how to set up tenant organisations, to influence landlords and to lead their communities. The courses begin next month and follow on from earlier government-funded training, which started in 2011. This brings total government funding to almost £1 million to train around 3,000 social tenants.
There are currently around 200 tenant management organisations with powers to manage buildings and services, and several hundred tenant panels with more informal advisory powers in England. However, with around 6 million tenants in social housing ministers are determined to increase participation in how they manage services.
Don Foster said:
Local people are best placed to know their housing needs and I want to give social tenants a stronger voice. Tenant organisations help people ensure their landlords provide the right service to a high standard. I want social tenants to make much greater use of the available rights and powers to decide for themselves how to run their communities and ensure they get the best possible service.
The 50 in-house training courses will run at Trafford Hall, home to the National Communities Resource Centre, a charity that works to develop the skills and confidence of those living and working in low income areas.
Don Foster added:
Many councils and housing associations already provide excellent services to local people and these measures will give tenants greater say over the services they get and make it easier for tenants to challenge their landlord and to manage housing services themselves.
Tenant panels can challenge poor services and hold landlords to account for not providing proper services. Tenant management organisations can exercise their right to take over responsibility for the management of housing services such as repairs, maintenance, caretaking, rent collection and security. Leathermarket Joint Management Board in the London Borough of Southwark has recently become the country’s first self-financing tenant management organisation.
Examples of tenant organisations that have benefited from Trafford Hall training include:
The Roman Way Estate tenant management organisation in Birmingham successfully used the right to manage process and took over running their estate 2 years ago. Already the estate is cleaner, has a faster repairs service and higher levels of tenant satisfaction.
Bushbury Hill Estate Management Board manages an estate of 800 homes in Wolverhampton. They transformed what was an unpopular estate before they took over 15 years ago. In the last few weeks there was a ‘continuation ballot’ on the estate and 95% of tenants who voted were in favour of the board carrying on managing the homes.
WATMOS Community Homes is an organisation in which 11 tenant management organisations, in Walsall and London, have linked up to create their own umbrella housing association. Each organisation manages its own local estate and collectively they are one of the best performing housing associations in the country.
Bloomsbury Estate Management Board in Birmingham manages a large council estate and has made numerous improvements using surplus money generated by their efficient use of their management and maintenance allowances. Examples include: double glazing to houses and low-rise flats, new porches and the refurbishment of communal areas in high rise blocks.
Nick Reynolds Chair of the National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations said:
People at Trafford Hall understand what tenant-led management is all about and it is a great place for tenants to learn. When we were setting up our tenant management organisation we attended a number of Trafford Hall courses and now we get the opportunity to go back there to pass on our experience to other tenants.
Sally Wyatt, Chief Executive of Trafford Hall said:
We are delighted to receive this funding which will allow us to continue to train and support tenants to develop their tenant organisations and make a real difference at local level.
In addition to this training the government has created the community cashback scheme giving council and housing association tenants the power to manage housing services directly. Where savings are generated these are re-invested into community priorities.
- The National Communities Resource Centre provides training and support to develop the skills, confidence and capacity of those living and working in low-income areas, so that they have a practical and positive impact on their local community. It received grant funding of £535,000 in 2011, following an external competition, and their contract is now being extended by £404,000 to March 2015. This funding is intended to support activities over and above those that landlords should provide as part of their regulatory responsibilities.
- The community cashback scheme enables tenants living in council or housing association homes to manage services with agreement from their landlord.
- The government is also funding the National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations £43,000 to support the development of tenant control by tenant management organisations.