Hi – if you’re back for part 2 of my blog then I’ll take that as a good sign!
I want to talk about some of the changes in relation to how we deal with our tenants based on my overall experience working in social housing in the UK and New Zealand.
I would say that the main change since I started in the profession 31 years ago, and one that is massively for the better, is that we now treat our tenants as customers – people we are providing a service to. When I started off, I’m sad to say that the approach was to do the bare minimum for tenants. Indeed, when I first became a housing officer in 1986, I was told by an Area Manager never to come back with details of repairs that were reported to me whilst I was on my patch – ‘if they’re serious about getting it done then they’ll come down to the office’. The concept of working with tenants to tackle problems on estates was in its infancy and light years away from where we are now.
Moving to work in New Zealand in the late 1980s was a really positive eye opener. Perhaps because of the more relaxed, laid back culture, housing staff and tenants seemed to have an honest, open dialogue and – wait for it – actually seemed to like each other! Auckland was a very culturally-aware city with a very high proportion of residents from the Pacific Islands. Each island had its own particular customs and traditions and housing staff were well trained in how to deal with all tenants and applicants with great sensitivity. There were of course many Maoris as well with their own expectations of how they should be treated. It was a really rewarding experience for me and made me realise how far we had to go in the UK.
Of course we have moved on since those days in the early part of my career and now, for the most part, tenants are treated with respect and courtesy. Many tenants say that they do not wish to be treated as customers as they do not have the flexibility and choice that you might have when you decide where to do your weekly grocery shop. I fully understand and respect that but my view is that our staff should treat them as customers who have an immediate option to take their services elsewhere. If we see our tenants as a ‘captive audience’ this will subconsciously affect whether we are willing to go the extra mile for them
There are plenty of other challenges facing housing professionals so in my next blog I’ll be talking about how things have changed since I was appointed to my current role six years ago.Also watch this space for a guest contributor to my blog next month.
Tim Doyle, Group Chief Executive at ForViva