The last Resident Ambassador we are going to be introducing for the Resident Voice Index Neighbourhoods & Communities theme is Jackie. When we talked with her, she spoke not only about the relationship residents have with their provider but the relationship the provider can create with residents – and she had some good ideas of what social housing in the 21st century may look like.
Jackie grew up in social housing. Now retired, she has a lot of insight into how social housing across the UK has changed in that time. For her, the creation of community spaces is essential to building connected, cohesive communities:
“When I was a kid, my parents lived in a council house and it was a brand new town to get rid of the Glasgow overspill. When the new towns were built, they built them with local shops, a local centre and a local school.
“Since then, it’s become housing associations and very few council houses. When councils are adding new housing developments they hand the land over to developers who want to maximise their return with houses and forget about community areas. They usually put in a playground and don’t seem to realise that their homes will house all ages, therefore a proportion of the residents will feel excluded instead of a community area where everyone can be included.
“I think that housing associations should work with councils and the developers to build new houses and work together to bring back some of that community space.“
Seeing residents as assets
Jackie believes that for housing providers to thrive in the communities they work in, they must see residents as assets to their mission:
“My housing association has a high number of residents who are paying rent and it’s the same nationally. We are good for society; we are society and we deserve our dignity.“
Many social housing residents are a well of skills, passion and willingness, with local and personal relationships at a community level. For example, for a project that Jackie is part of that tackles stigma nationally, one of the housing providers involved embarked on making a film about residents…
“And they found that the son of one of the residents is studying filmmaking at university and he’s volunteered to help with making the video. There is a pool of people, all different kinds of people. There’s doctors, there’s administrators, all different people that have the tools that can help housing associations just by volunteering. And housing providers are getting the quality of what these people do in their employment or used to do.“
Changes are coming
When given access to resources and affordable community space, community members can work within neighbourhoods at a positive, grassroots level and help stem larger problems by building stronger social networks and activating more people across communities.
Changes in how housing providers behave are expected. New policies like the Charter for Social Housing Residents and reform of the Housing Ombudsman are designed to place residents at the centre of the work housing providers do and create systems where they work together. For Jackie, this couldn’t come soon enough – the time is here for residents to be listened to at every stage of housing delivery.
The initial results for the Resident Voice Index Neighbourhoods & Communities survey are now live! Follow this link to see what social housing residents had to say!