Embedding a culture of tenant engagement
One year on from Tuath Housing’s sector-leading research on tenancy engagement in an Approved Housing Body (AHB) in Ireland
GROWTH, DEVELOPMENT & REGENERATION
Image: Tuath Housing
Director of Housing Services, Tuath Housing
Issue 66 | June 2023
One year on from the launch of Tuath Housing’s sector-leading research on Embedding a Culture of Tenant Engagement in the Irish social housing sector, this article discusses the key principles that should underpin a Tenant Engagement Strategy.
The aim of the research, which was undertaken by Dr. Joe Frey (University of Glasgow) and Dr. Peter Shanks (University of Birmingham), was to use evidence from good practice in the social housing sector in the UK and Europe and examine current policy and practice in Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in Ireland.
Tenant engagement is a relatively new area for the social housing sector in Ireland and, in line with the new regulatory standards, AHBs are beginning to form and implement their Tenant engagement Strategies. This research was a first step in bridging the knowledge gap in understanding how AHBs can embed a culture of tenant engagement within their organisation and the key principles that should underpin a Tenant Engagement Strategy.
Tenant engagement at Tuath Housing
Tuath Housing is one of the largest Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland with 10,300 homes in management and providing services to 27,000 tenants. We are proud to be at the forefront of implementing tenant engagement in social and affordable housing in Ireland. We began our tenant engagement journey in 2018 and since then we have made great progress in developing our services.
A key cultural changemaker for Tuath was setting up the Tenant Engagement Working Group. The purpose of this group was to enable residents and staff to work together to improve Tuath Housing’s services and communication with residents. The working group and national consultation with residents were instrumental in contributing to the publication of the current Tenant Engagement Strategy.
“As a Tuath resident I wanted to give something back. I appreciate the ethos and aims of the association and want to support the development of tenant engagement. Getting involved is a great step towards having a say in your community. It recognises the shared responsibility we have in making our communities work well.”
Tuath tenant and member of Tuath’s Tenant Engagement Working Group
As the above quote powerfully conveys, social housing is not just ‘bricks and mortar’, it is building communities and enabling tenant engagement and participation.
Tuath Housing developed and launched its Tenant Engagement Strategy following the research report called, ‘Tenant Engagement Strategy 2022 – 2025, ‘Your Voice, Your Home, Your Community’. Contained within this strategy are the seven pillars supporting the plan for how Tuath will involve residents in the delivery, and continuous improvement of services over the next four years.
These pillars are:
Involve: Ensuring all residents are aware of and understand tenant engagement from the beginning of their tenancy.
Enable: Enabling residents to influence how Tuath Housing provides services, makes decisions, and spends money.
Communicate: Our residents would like there to be effective communications between themselves and Tuath as their housing services provider.
Build: Engaging with our residents and supporting them to build a sense of community where they live is a top priority for Tuath.
Integrate: We will support the development of cohesive, integrated communities.
Embed: We will embed a culture of tenant engagement in our approach to the policy and practice of housing management.
Empower: We will support residents to develop the confidence and skills they need by providing relevant support, training, and development opportunities.
Seven key principles underpinning Tuath’s Tenancy Engagement Strategy
One of the main recommendations from the research paper was for Approved Housing Bodies to underpin their Tenant Engagement Strategy with Seven Key Principles, discussed below.
Balance between the ‘consumerist’ model, which is service-orientated and ‘citizenship’ model, which is grounded in empowerment. AHBs should pick the right model for their organisation.
All key stakeholders, in particular tenants/residents, are consulted in a meaningful way prior to the development of a Tenant Engagement Strategy.
Enough resources, including additional support from central government, are made available to AHBs. This is vital for effective capacity building.
A ‘One Team’ culture should permeate the organisation. Senior management demonstrates a clear commitment to embedding tenant engagement and staff, board members and residents should also undertake the same training and work towards a clear set of organisational goals.
Adopting an incremental approach to embedding tenancy engagement helps facilitate the necessary level of trust that needs to be built up.
More emphasis is needed on the evaluation of tenant engagement to justify the associated expenditure and help convince tenants/residents of the value to them.
Any regulatory framework for tenant participation should be ‘light-touch’ and adopt the principle of ‘comply or explain’, thereby giving AHBs flexibility.
The journey ahead
Both the research paper and Tenant Engagement Strategy highlight the importance of engaging with residents through a range of consultation methods so we can improve, develop and provide excellent tenancy services.
Over the next four years the strategy’s action plan will be kept under regular review and monitored to ensure we respond to changes in regulation, legislation and ensure best practice in tenant engagement.
We are at the beginning of our journey, but we are proud of the progress we have made so far, and we will continue to grow and develop our resident-led approach which is fundamental to creating sustainable communities.
“We are at the beginning of our journey, but we are proud of the progress we have made so far.”