Consultation on new tenant satisfaction measures underway

The Regulator of Social Housing is consulting on a new set of tenant satisfaction measures, as proposed in the Government’s Social Housing White Paper, but the closing date for responses is imminent.

The Social Housing White Paper was published over a year ago in November 2020. It outlined what social housing residents should expect from their landlords and sought to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords, and enable residents to hold their landlord to account and understand how they are performing.

The proposed tenant satisfaction measures are among the tools that could be used to do this. They are intended to provide a set of clear, comparable metrics on issues that matter to residents, and would be applied to housing associations, local authorities and other registered housing providers.

The measures would enable residents to hold their landlords to account, and allow the regulator to ensure that housing associations (and other social housing providers) are delivering on consumer regulation. They would be used alongside other tools to gain assurance from social housing providers on compliance.

The consultation is open until 3 March 2022, and it seeks views on 22 tenant satisfaction measures across five themes from the white paper:

  • Keeping properties in good repair.
  • Maintaining building safety.
  • Effective complaints handling.
  • Respectful and helpful tenant management.
  • Responsible neighbourhood management.

Twelve of these will be measured using a perception survey, while the remaining 10 will be measured using housing providers’ management information. This could include complaints handling, building safety, neighbourhood management, repairs and stock quality information.

The consultation is also proposing a new Tenant Satisfaction Measure standard. To comply with this, housing associations will need to meet detailed technical and tenant perception survey requirements.

The proposals represent a significant U-turn from the Government and the regulator as they previously scrapped the use of performance indicators for comparing services delivered by different social landlords. However, in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy some four and a half years ago, it has faced repeated calls to focus on performance issues and particularly those relating to the health and safety of tenants.

The Levelling Up Housing and Communities select committee has also started its work looking at the effectiveness of social housing regulation. Commenting on the committee’s first open session in January, housing guru Alistair McIntosh described the sector as a ‘fact free zone’ and said collecting analysing and publishing facts about conditions across the sector must be a top priority for any new regulatory regime.

Speaking at the select committee hearing, Suzanne Muna from the Social Housing Action Campaign was critical of the proposed tenant satisfaction measures.

“Any of our members that we’ve talked to have just shrugged their shoulders and said ‘how will this help me?’ I can’t say that empowers tenants in any way,” she said.

Ahead of launching the consultation back in December the regulator had worked with others, including the National Housing Federation, in shaping the proposed measures through the Tenant Satisfaction Measure Sounding Board. It remains to be seen what other measures of service delivery are to be introduced within a more customer focused regulatory system.

By Patrick Mooney, Editor