As the issue of tenancy sustainment becomes evermore pressing, Martyn Hague, director of Neighbourhoods at ForHousing, asks whether housing providers need to rethink their approach
Tenancy sustainment is a key priority for the social housing sector – especially in the current climate. We all aim to keep people living independently in their homes and prevent evictions wherever possible.
But does this go far enough?
The pandemic has reaffirmed our belief that it’s time to reverse some of our thinking and language that has become commonplace around tenancy sustainment.
Do we really want tenancies that are sustained, or do we want people to have tenancies that are successful? Those are two different things.
Simply not having to evict someone shouldn’t be a measure of success. What are tenants asking of us? Is it just a roof over their heads or is it something more? A home, not a house? A place where they have hopes and ambitions?
That starts with framing our conversations with tenants in the right way. We’re quick to ask people if they can pay the rent or delve into any past issues that may impact their ability to stay in a home, and rightly so. But how often do we ask tenants about their wider aspirations or about their plans for the future?
As a progressive social landlord, our mission at ForHousing is to improve lives and enable people to become part of a community. We want to see people thrive, and that starts with listening and understanding.
We launched our Wellbeing Strategy last year, at the start of the pandemic. The strategy focusses on seven key elements: stable homes, digital access, continual learning, being person centred, prosperity, health, and connection.
Typically, wellbeing may not be seen as part of tenancy sustainment. But improved wellbeing can increase feelings of safety, strengthen connections, provide pathways to employment, and prevent homelessness.
This can all lead to less reliance on services, increasing our financial capacity to invest in areas where it is needed.
We know the best way to enable people to flourish in their homes is to take the time to develop positive relationships with them. When issues, financial or otherwise, become overwhelming for someone, that’s when problems with tenancies are most likely to arise.
We work hard to make sure that tenants trust us and feel able to ask for help when they need it. Having these positive relationships means we can provide support at the earliest possible opportunity before people start to struggle more.
Getting to know tenants means we can also learn about their wants and needs, and we can work with them to help them achieve these.
For example, our Do Your Own Thing programme offers a pathway from an idea to setting up a business and becoming self-employed. We offer one-to-one support, self-employment workshops, and the option to apply for funding to get a business off the ground.
Read more about ForHousing:
- ForHousing completes £40m work on Crown House development
- ForHousing offers workshops to help tenants deal with financial shock of COVID
- ForHousing donates books to over 2,000 children for Christmas
Better partnerships in communities will be one of the legacies of lockdown. Partnership working is absolutely crucial when it comes to enabling people to thrive and achieve success. No one organisation can deal with every issue.
One of the positives to come out of the pandemic is stronger partnership working, with a focus on collaboration to provide support to those who need it. With partnership working, we are all pulling in the same direction with a common goal. Continuing with this integration will be key to supporting communities and tenants effectively as we begin to get back to normal.
“Simply not having to evict someone shouldn’t be a measure of success”
Research looking at the root causes of debt showed that often a person’s debt levels remained steady, and debt simply moved. A landlord might feel they have solved a person’s financial issues, but in reality the debt has simply shifted to another organisation. The situation for the person has remained the same.
This shows that we need to think more holistically and work more closely with our partners and others to ensure that problems are being solved, not just shifted.
The right services
Of course, it’s essential to continue offering the right services to those who need them, such as support with budgeting and managing debt or accessing medical and specialist services. Using tenant insight has a vital part to play, ensuring resources are targeted in the right places and tenants can access person-centred support.
Ultimately, we believe support is more than just telling people what to do or doing everything for them. The right support should open doors for people and empower them to improve their own lives.
Image: Martyn Hague, director of Neighbourhoods, ForHousing
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