[Submitted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous]
The Discussion Paper contains proposals that, if adopted, will improve the standard of social housing.
1. Achieving the outcomes in practice
The outcomes set out in the Charter must be evidence-based. Any independent assessor or regulator is then able to demand the evidence to show that any outcome has been achieved.
Where the social landlord or a tenant fails to comply with the outcomes in the Charter, the following must to be set out for each outcome:
1 Where there is a dispute between the tenant and landlord, the Charter must set out the process all parties must follow with the objective of providing evidence that the outcome(s) have been achieved.
2 If any party is unable to provide that evidence, the Charter must set out the sanctions that can be applied to ensure that the outcome is achieved.
2. Tenant Participation
The Scottish Government requires by law that there is public participation in the management of the National Health Service. Using this as a legal precedent there is a need for a single model to be established for democratic tenant participation in all areas of social housing management. This provision must also apply to all registered social landlords.
There is need to simplify the present confusing structure of regional and national organisations associated with social housing, whose remit is not clearly understood and are not seen to contribute to the provision of or improved social housing. The Charter should establish a single democratic model for tenant participation in the management process of each registered social landlord.
Reason: The present model for tenant participation is neither democratic nor transparent. Currently registered tenant organisations are open to residents who are not tenants but own property within the community. Communities Scotland recognise the “multi-tenure nature of communities” and “many tenant organisations are made up of a mix of tenants and residents”. It is also accepted that “Tenant organisations which also include owners can be registered with their landlord as an RTO under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, and as such have a statutory right to be consulted on Housing and related matters.”
At this point there is a distinction between what affects the community as a whole, such as “maintenance of open space areas, and strategies for dealing with anti-social behaviour across all tenures” and matters which are specific to tenants of registered social landlords.
In many respects these are matters that should come under the aegis of community councils, ward forums or similar community structures with the same or similar remit, rather than registered tenant organisations. If there is not a suitable existing community organisation, another option is to set up a registered community group.
Currently the various bodies that claim to represent social tenants are neither representative nor effective in communicating the views of the tenant to the social landlord. A particular example is the structure of “regional networks” where the representatives are elected by registered tenant organisations.
There are many areas in Scotland where no such organisations exist, so that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the majority of tenants are not represented at any level, particularly those in remote or rural areas. As a registered tenants organisation is open to all residents, the interest and remit of such an organisation is wider than that relating to specific tenancy issues, where only tenant and landlord should be involved.
It is reasonable to suggest that there is currently no effective channel for tenants to participate in the management of social housing at local, regional or national level. A distinction must be made between resident, where the issues affect the community, and tenant, where the issues are specifically tenancy related.
This is particularly pertinent where the social landlord is the local authority. Examples can be given where a local authority is using funds from the Housing Revenue Account to support housing forums which include non-tenants. Again the more appropriate channel for this activity should be either through other channels of local authority activity or through community councils.
A local authority may have a role as a social landlord and also have a role as a provider of social services and the distinction must be clear. Again it is worth noting that Communities Scotland accept that “Where an issue is solely tenancy related it would however be appropriate that only tenant members of the group are consulted and involved in the decision making process for that particular issue.”
This must be clearly understood by all local authorities. It is essential for the future of social housing in Scotland that effective tenant participation as well as consultation is encapsulated in the Charter.
One prospective outcome in the Discussion Paper suggests that rent levels are set in consultation with tenants. In many aspects of social housing management consultation should be a preliminary stage with any implementation of the proposals, which were the subject of a consultation, requiring participation by democratically elected representatives of all tenants of that social landlord at the time when any decision is made.
Without democratic tenant participation in the management of social housing the future of the Charter cannot be assured. Unlike the National Health Service there is the need for a single model of tenant participation to be set out in the Charter. At some point in the future this could form the basis for regional and national representation, replacing the current undemocratic organisations.
In the discussion paper the word tenant and resident are both used.
For example "Residents are content with how their landlord is dealing with anti-social behaviour problems on their estate". If their is multi-tenure on the estate this is not the responsibility of the landlord alone, only if the anti-social behaviour is caused by or related to a tenant of that landlord.
On page 19 of the Discussion Paper it is stated that the following pages provide examples of possible outcomes. As with any outcome it must be evidence based, which the wording must reflect. The above outcome is so loosely worded, that it does not constitute an outcome. For example, what evidence is required to show that residents are content, particularly if the problem is ongoing.
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