Tenants' conference 2012 06/07/2012 Labelled as Tenants

Getting a fair deal for tenants

 

Tenant group

On Wednesday 19 September, 'Getting a fair deal for tenants' was the theme for the 2012 annual ARCH Tenants' Conference. This event was organised by the ARCH Tenants' Group for tenants of the 62 ARCH member councils who have retained their housing stock.

 

138 delegates and speakers met at the Kettering Conference Centre on the 19 September. It is the 6th conference that the ARCH Tenants' Group have been involved in organising. They worked with Chartered Institute of Housing events team and HouseMark to plan the venue, the programme and speakers, then chaired workshops and registered delegates on the day to ensure that the event ran smoothly.

 

The conference was a chance for tenants from stock retained councils from across the country to hear about and discuss topical issues affecting council housing including the challenges facing the local authority sector and what this means for tenants. Topics covered on the day included welfare reform, self-financing, value for money, tenant scrutiny and community engagement.

 

PinnacleThe conference was hosted by Kettering Borough Council. The Mayor of Kettering, Councillor Jim Hakewill, presented two of the ARCH awards at the event. The Excellence in Participation Award was kindly sponsored and presented by Pinnacle psg. Click here for information about the awards winners. 

 

 

Peter KirkpatrickARCH Tenants' Group chair takes the helm

 

There was a buzz in the room as Peter Kirkpatrick, ARCH Tenants' Group's recently elected chair and tenant of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, opened the conference by welcoming delegates and thanking Kettering Borough Council and Pinnacle psg for supporting the event.

 

Thank you Kettering 

 

The conference this year was supported by Kettering Borough Council - Head of Housing John Conway welcomed delegates to the borough with an overview of Kettering's housing challenges and how the Council has addressed this, with particular reference to the 'homes for the future' programme to bring older properties up to standard so that they are more energy efficient and cost effective for tenants to heat.

 

KetteringJohn also told delegates about the life skills programme 'Move On, Move In' to help ensure younger tenants are able to sustain their tenancies and develop new skills.

 

'We have a good relationship with our council. We work in partnership and tenants really do have their say in Kettering' said Martyn Lund, from the ARCH Tenants' Group and involved tenant of Kettering.

Click here to download John Conway's presentation

Residents have a key role with ARCH

Paul Ellis

 

Councillor Paul Ellis, newly elected Chair of ARCH and cabinet member for housing at London Borough of Wandsworth said: 'ARCH is there for the benefit of residents as well as the local authority organisations who are ARCH members… residents have played a key role as ARCH has developed over the years'.

 

Challenges facing the sector and what this means for tenants

 

Paul Downie, Deputy Director, Affordable Housing Management and Standards at the Department for Communities and Local Government addressed the conference.

 

'With just under 2 million homes the local authority sector is a significant player in housing… there are a number of pressures and challenges on the housing sector; financial pressures; just under 400,000 households are under occupying their homes; just over quarter million households are overcrowding their homes in the private rented and social housing sectors; we have increasing numbers on the waiting lists with over 1.7 million households registered on them in England with long waiting times.'

 

Paul went on to say that 'The Government reforms to address these challenges include more financial flexibility for local authority landlords; more effective use of social housing; fairness and transparency for existing and new tenants and better regulation.'

 

'Welfare reforms are starting to have an impact and we are well aware that this will create pressures and difficulties for some… it is going to be tough'… ' there are more opportunities for tenants to take control though £1.3 million of new grant for tenant empowerment and community cashback'.

 

Questions and comments  from delegates included concerns about welfare reform the bedroom tax and impact on pensioners; when will the new building of homes be seen; right to buy and new owners renting out at exorbitant rents compared to what social housing neighbours are paying.

 

Workshops share practical ideas

 

The six workshops at the event were very popular. Copies of the presentations and key notes from the sessions can be downloaded after each workshop description below. Here are some highlights from the sessions shared in the closing session.

 

  • For tenant scrutiny to be effective tenants need to know it has made a difference. Feedback and communication are key and the culture of the organisation will have an impact and trust as part of the relationship  is important.

 

  • Effective community engagement at Kettering has resulted in tenants now having a real 'ownership' of the area - talking to people has been key to this and engaging young people.

 

  • Welfare reform - payment online is causing concern as some people can't access it or the internet. Because of the bedroom tax some people will lose 25% of their benefit income and some organisations do not have enough one bed properties available for prople to move to.

 

  • Open forum - the bedroom tax and how older people will be penalised were key topics of discussion. Participants were surprised that more lobbying wasn't taking place. The session also discussed repairs cash back and health and safety issues and apathy for tenant participation.

 

  • Self financing - local authorities must now run as businesses and have business plans which tenants need to be involved in drawing up.

 

  • Value for money - the group looked at what value for money means and its alignment to the organisation's purpose. Wandsworth shared the example of their asset management strategy for filling in the gaps, eg developing homes in place of garages.

 

Presentations and workshops

 

Challenges facing the LA sector and what this means for tenants

Paul Downie, Deputy Director, Affordable Housing Management and Standards, Department for Communities and Local Government

Download presentation

 

1. What has been achieved through tenant scrutiny?

 

Jennifer Holmes, chair person of service evaluation group (Scrutiny) West Lancashire Borough Council and Carole Halfacre, Assistant Director of Consultancy, HouseMark


Download presentation 

 

2. Effective Community Engagement

 

Linda Nash, Housing Communications Officer, Kettering Borough Council and Martyn Lund, Voluntary Member of Kettering Borough Council


Download presentation 

 

3. Welfare Reform - How will affect tenants?

 

Colin Wiles, CIH Eastern Regional Board and Jim Nicholl ARCH Tenants' Group


Download presentation

 

4. Open forum tenants workshop

 

Peter Kirkpatrick, chair of ARCH Tenants' Group; Alison Moore, chairperson of Tenants and Leaseholders Committee, Exeter City Council; and Matthew Warburton, ARCH Policy Advisor


No presentation

 

5. Self financing - what this means for landlord and tenants

 

Steve Partridge, Director of Financial Policy & Development, CIH Consultancy; Carl Brazier, Strategic Head of Tenant Services, Stroud District Council; and Michael Hewlett, Chair Tenants & Leaseholders Panel, Borough of Croydon


No presentation

 

6. Feeling the pinch - Getting value out of money spent- what people out there are doing?

 

Gez Kinsella, Assistant Director - Consultancy HouseMark; Councillor Paul Ellis, Cabinet Member for Housing London Borough of Wandsworth; and Kevin Lovatt, ARCH Tenants' Group


Download presentation

 

ARCH awards

 

On the afternoon of the tenants' conference, three awards were presented to both organisations and individuals for excellence in the sector.  Click here for more information about the awards.

 

Download the tenants' conference report here

Housemark