Bushbury Hill information house

Want to know what tenants want? Try talking to them

Bushbury Hill information house

Bushbury Hill information house

As part of our Right to Transfer process in Bushbury Hill we have recently opened what we call our Information house on the estate. Open five sessions a week, including evenings and Saturdays it offers every tenant a chance to come and chat to us about the transfer proposal. It also gives us the chance to find out from tenants which of our proposed improvements they would like to choose and if they will need the back garden fencing programme.

Tenant can choose a new fire suite

New fire suite

Don’t take offence

We know exactly what tenants want because we pounded the streets and asked them. Because our estate is nearly all houses with large gardens, three quarters of tenants need new fencing. It may seem a minor issue, but a decent fence means you can enjoy your garden in privacy and security. By and large tenants rub along just fine, but unwanted intrusions by next door’s dogs and or children can quickly grate. If you have a 100ft garden as many in Bushbury Hill do, the cost of fencing it yourself is many hundreds of pounds. Many of our tenants simply do not have this kind of money.

Ask and then listen…

It is this personal interaction with tenants that has given the board such a good understanding of the needs of our community and shape the transfer proposal accordingly. It may seem to be obvious, but if you want to know what your tenants want from the Right to Transfer (or anything else) then a conversation is the best way. This involves not just asking questions, but also listening to the answers and capturing them in a way that can be used. We have a very simple survey that we are using.

…Or not

Being led by the needs and wishes of our tenants is in our DNA as a tenant led organisation but it does beg the question, why would any landlord want to do otherwise? What I really cannot understand about the local authority’s opposition to transfer is that they have never taken the time to talk to the tenants in Bushbury Hill about the issues. How a local authority can possibly reach a meaningful conclusion about what is in the tenants best interests without engaging with the tenants is beyond me.

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109 thoughts on “Want to know what tenants want? Try talking to them

  1. Bob

    And again if were talking about transparency and openness why doesnt any stock transfer offer document ever warn tenants of possible future mergers? ?? Maybe theyre worried tenants would think twice. Lets hope wolves council write this possible eventuality into theirs…

    Reply
  2. Bill Heywood Post author

    Bob, there are thousands more HAs than LA and they are independent, so it is inevitable that there will be more changes. I simply wanted you to consider that as a tenant in a small county borough, you cannot assume you will never be subject to a merger yourself, with no say in the matter.

    I am neither surprised or disgusted at a social landlord seeking to make maximum use of their assets & commercial opportunities. HAs borrow against their assets to build new homes and invest in existing homes, this is to the benefit of those in need of homes or existing tenants. Many HAs operate commercial subsidiaries which generate income for the landlord, which is then used to further the social aims of the HA. This brings more resources into the organisation so ultimately benefits tenants. In any case local authorities also operate in exactly the same way, your landlord will be borrowing against its housing assets (ie your home) to pay for capital works and building new properties. Many local authorities also operate commercial arms to provide services for profit.

    I’m struggling to see what there is object to. The alternative is that they sit on their assets and don’t invest in tenants’ homes and new build.

    With regards to the offer document is not sensible to start including hypotheticals, because the list of things that might or might not happen in the future is almost limitless. The HCA is quite clear that the offer should contain only things that would happen if tenants support the transfer or remain with the council. Crystal ball gazing is simply going to confuse what should be simple.

    Reply
  3. Bob

    “This brings resources into the organisation and ultimately benefits tenants”…Tell that to the stock transfer tenants in many properties whose HA have “diversified” who still have ageing kitchens and bathrooms. And are paying more rent than council tenants. ..

    Reply
    1. Bill Heywood Post author

      Bob, I agree with you, any landlord who leaves their tenants with ageing kitchens & bathrooms or single glazing is failing them. But that has nothing to do with tenure, transfer, merger or anything other than bad management. There are poor performers in both the council and HA sectors and as a supporter of tenant empowerment I condemn this.

      Reply
  4. Bob

    My point being Bill that the majority of stock transfer has been about “improving ” homes. If you had told the tenants at the time of ballot that 9 years down the line theyd still have a council kitchen and bathroom do you think theyd have still voted for it? Google privatisation of council housing bill theres a wealth of articles about stock transfer! Some by quite reputable people. ..

    Reply
  5. Bill Heywood Post author

    Bob, in each case what matters is that transfer landlords deliver the promises made in the Offer document and that the local authority monitors this. If landlords have failed to honour transfer commitments then I would not defend this, but it does depend on the specifics in each case. For us this would not be an issue as tenants will have control of the invesment budget.

    As you know I reject the “privatisation” argument for transfers into the not for profit sector. Reputable or not, the majority of those expressing ideological opposition to stock transfer are not council tenants. They certainly don’t have to deal with Wolverhampton as their landlord.

    My focus is on tenant led stock transfer and I am sure that tenants are quite able to manage the process to achieve an excellent outcome. Using council led whole stock transfer as comparitors is comparing oranges with apples – councils do not put tenants in charge of their LSVTs. Our tenants are highly capable managers, they are used to proving naysayers wrong, they’ve been doing it for 20 years.

    Reply
  6. Bob

    Either way youre going down the road to privatisation. Theres nothing to stop your landlord merging in future as ive said ( although as long as youre getting a “great” service you say you dont mind), or becoming “for profit”. Youll have your existing rights preserved but presumably new tenants wont. Oh and a promise by the HA not to use certain grounds of the assured tenancy available to them is not the same as the actual statutory one on the secure one. So in effect they could use ground 8 if thry wanted.

    Well, all govts since 1988 have wanted public assets privatised, and youre flying the flag for them under the guise that its good for tenants.

    I do hope theyre not stupid and vote it out

    Reply
    1. Bill Heywood Post author

      Bob, we’ve been over the merger debate, so let’s not rehearse that again. I don’t believe that any charitable housing associations have become a for profit landlord, but I am happy for you to provide evidence to the contrary.

      Existing tenants keep the preserved right to buy which cannot be granted to new tenants. Otherwise the rights will be as laid out in the tenancy agreement and it will be for our board to decide what tenancy agreement they use for new tenants.

      The use of ground 8 will not be discretionary, it won’t be in the tenancy agreement so cannot be used ever. Unlike your tenancy which can be changed unilaterally by the council, an assured tenancy can only be changed by agreement between landlord and tenant.

      I have no interest in government agendas, the Right to Transfer is something that tenant activists have fought for and that has cross party support. The numbers involved are small and it bears no resemblance to LSVT. If we transfer, Wolverhampton will still retain over 97% of its stock so the impact on the city will be minimal. This is about tenant empowerment, I have no use for ideology and have seen no argument that justifies tenants putting up with a rotten deal because being a council tenant provides some tangible benefit. It doesn’t and they shouldn’t.

      This transfer proposal is by and from the tenants, it would be presumptuous to suggest that they don’t know what they are doing.

      Reply
  7. Bob

    Google “£341 to change two light bulbs” for an article about WHT. ok the article is predominantly about leaseholders but does not show your new landlord in a good light. Not at all. However its the comments underneath that I found interesting, lots of comments. None praising the landlord, all pretty negative. But im sure youll find a way to say its not true, theyre wonderful etc…

    Reply
    1. Bill Heywood Post author

      Bob, I looked it up and of course it sounds silly to charge that for changing a light bulb, but I also know enough about the media to know that we never get the full story. Most of the comments seemed to be from leaseholders, most of whom seem not to understand the nature of their leases, although one actual tenant was unhappy with a garage repair.

      This makes a good local press story, doesn’t matter if it’s HA or council. WCC get their share of brickbats for excessive leaseholder charges too, never mind £341, here’s an example of £22k: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2014/11/22/bombshell-bills-of-up-to-22k-sent-to-wolverhampton-residents/

      Landlords have overheads which in most cases outstrip the simple cost of materials. What do you think the schedule of rates for CCDC to change a light bulb in a communal area is? It may not be £170 but it won’t be the bare cost of the bulb either.

      In general, leaseholders who bought under the RTB already had a massive windfall at taxpayers expense and the terms of their lease were fixed before they bought. What I do know is that if leaseholders don’t pay their share, then the burden falls on tenants.

      What I have said repeatedly is that tenants in Bushbury Hill will continue to manage their own properties post transfer, so how WHT manage is not directly relevant. No doubt there are some WHT tenants who aren’t happy because you get this with all landlords however well they manage. However my personal experience with WHT is that they are an excellent organisation to work with and our tenants are also very happy with the same day repair service they get from WHT as our current contractor.

      Reply
    1. Bill Heywood Post author

      They do, we opted for it when they told us it was what the service their own tenants get. There are limitations, depending on the size and materials needed, but most jobs are done same day.

      No one is perfect, but our tenants are consistently telling us this is the best response repairs service we’re ever had. A tenant told me they reported a leak and the operative turned up 10 minutes later to fix it.

      Reply
      1. Bob

        A leak would be same day most places id have thought. Mind you HA rents are generally moreeexpensive so Iid expect more to be fair. Walsall Housing group rent is crazy, possibly to pay for their plush offices. My mate rents off them in short heath and still has a 60s front door horrid old kitchen and bathroom. He pays nearly 90 weekly for a 1 bed. Only improvement since 2003 was double glazing

  8. Bill Heywood Post author

    Emergencies typically dealt with by landlords within 24 hours, my point was that the tenant was blown away by a 10 minute response time. You couldn’t get that in the private sector.

    Remember, our tenants pay the same as the rest of council tenants in Wolverhampton, they don’t pay more, just get a much better service.

    Not sure what you want me to say about your friend, I think all tenants should have reasonably modern kitchens, bathrooms & front doors. He’s a HA tenant, you are a council tenant, neither of you have the facilities that you deserve. As I say, it is not about tenure, it is about management. The answer of course, is to put tenants in charge.

    Reply
  9. Bob

    I wouldnt say my homes that bad Bill? Ive got a nice kitchen, nice fire, modern heating. Yes my bathroom is absolutely ancient ( funnily enough, my dad who knows a bit about plumbing, spotted that my sink and toilet bowl were made by ‘Armitage Ware’ which is apparently before they became Armitage Shanks so makes them at least 50 odd yrs old!) But its in really good nick so doesn’t need replacing, id probably at least want to keep my high level cistern any way, theyre miles better than the new ones .

    Speaking of improvement when I got home today id received a letter saying I am finally getting double glazed windows this financial year! !

    Reply
  10. Bob

    Seems to be taking forever. Is it a done deal virtually or is it possible there could be a no vote do you think? Could it depend whats in the offer document?

    Reply
  11. Bill Heywood Post author

    I never take anything for granted and the decision is solely for tenants to decide in the ballot. Tenants have decided the priorities for investment that will be in the Offer document, it’s just a shame that unlike every other transfer, we are not able to make our case direct to tenants. Tenants deserve a level playing field so they can make effective use of their Right to Transfer, allowing the council to write the Offer document is nonsense.

    Reply
  12. Bob

    Why nonsense? Dont they have to be factual and correct? Mind you our offer document wasa total one sided piece of crap tthat implied your house was going to fall apart if you didnt vote to transfer to some dodgy HA

    Reply
    1. Bill Heywood Post author

      Bob, it is nonsense that our tenants have to let their opponent write their offer document. Think of it this way, if you were going through a divorce, would you allow your spouse to present your case? Of course not.

      Natural justice requires that our tenants should be on the same footing as every other transfer. The party proposing the transfer writes the offer, the HCA as regulator ensures that it is fair. All we are asking for is a level playing field.

      Reply
  13. Bob

    One thing I would take into consideration Bill is the possibility of the tories winning the election ( mind you labour or lib dem victory would still result in right wing govt as labour are not socialists any more, their support and massive extension of stock transfer during 1997-2010 & the fact that more council houses have been built under a bloody tory coalition than were in the same period would tell anyone that). They are planning to allow 2.5million housing association tenants the right to buy. HAs depend largely on banks and the issuing of bonds for funding, as they can to a degree guarantee the future existence of their assets. With a hugely extended RTB this guarantee no longer exists and many ha’s are crapping themselves. The tories wont likely get in but its only a matter of time till they do again. Dont know what their plans would be for council housing.

    PS You stated that right to transfer has cross party support, as if its a good thing? All that actually means is that, disgustingly, all parties now support a right wing thatcherite housing direction and that socialism is dead.

    Reply
  14. Bill Heywood Post author

    Bob, the Right to Transfer is about tenant empowerment, party politics don’t have much to contribute in that regard. It is self evidently a good thing that tenant rights have broad political support, would you rather have a position where all the parties thought you should have fewer rights? I don’t think that the outcome of the election will bring in any change in policy or approach and this consistency is to be welcomed.

    Tenants must be free to decide their own destiny free from political dogma or ideology. If you are a tenant with 100′ garden and no fence, no “ism” is going to fix that, but if you control your own asset management programme, then you can do that and so much more.

    You have repeatedly said that you think the Secure tenancy is worth putting up with any amount of rubbish to preserve, I have made the point before you have Thatcher to thank for that.

    I personally think the discount element of the Right to Buy is a terrible waste of public resources, otherwise I have no objection in principle (other than perhaps rural housing) if someone wanted to buy their home at full market value. I don’t see how the Tory’s can make RTB work in the HA sector because of the funders. They want the market to lend to HAs to make up for the lack of government investment, but the lenders won’t cough up if the assets are given away. They can’t have it both ways.

    Having said that, it won’t make any difference to us either way, as transferring tenants preserve their right to buy and their discount. It also happens that most of our houses are designated defective and so difficult to mortgage and insure, so we tend not to have large numbers of RTBs.

    Reply
  15. Bob

    The right to transfer, lsvt, right to buy. None are really about empowerment. You think any politician gives a crap about council tenants? Its to do with further reducing the public sector and transferring assets etc to the private sector. Its exactly the same basic principle as the disgusting academies programme and things like council run care homes being closed the land being given to housing associations and expensive extra care villages run by private organisations like Wrekin, in cannock on the site of the former Langbourne council care home. Sick and disgusting. Have you ever loomed at the derend council housing site? And seen some of the housing association horror stories on there? Jesus christ

    Reply
  16. Bob

    Are Wrekin Housing Trust paying for the nail art/beauty and other free courses at your information house?

    Reply

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