Category Archives: Housing

Listening, hearing and acting


By Alistair McIntosh, HQN CEO

That’s what a tenant in Wales told me she needs to see a lot more of. And she makes a fine point. Tenants do tell us what is going on. But do we listen and then fix it? Grenfell suggests that we don’t try hard enough. Do we give tenants the tin ear? Is this what lands us in trouble time and again? Yes, it is.

I’ve been in this game for more than 35 years so I’ve seen a lot of screw-ups. They’ve one thing in common: someone was always trying to tell us what was going wrong. Whether it was Connaught or Circle, the tenants were warning us of dire problems. What did we do? Well, it was too much, too little and too late every time.

Of course we need to get better at this. And we seem to be trying. You can’t move in most landlords now for polls, focus groups, scrutiny and staff beavering away on complaints. All of this was ditched the last time the money ran short. So we wait to see if this is heartfelt or just a sop.

There’s one very easy way to find out what is going wrong: why don’t you talk to the people in the call centre? They hear it all. But the top brass hardly ever go near them. Yes, you can tell how quickly they pick up calls and reply to emails. And you can pull out the rates of satisfaction. But that’s just filler for your board reports.

What you want to know is about the blocks with lots of repairs. Is that a sign of a bigger problem down the line? Are disabled tenants marooned by lousy lifts? The young people in the call centre will know. They can also pinpoint the ASB hotspots. So you’ve got to use them. Many of you have the software to pull off reports on trends on these things. Goodness know where they go. If and when inspection comes back, their first port of call will be the call centre.

That’s where you get the real stuff. Everything that comes afterwards is filtered to the point of uselessness. It passes through too many hands. In truth the landlord is defined by the young underpaid staff in the call centre, not the executives. That’s who the tenants deal with day to day. So try listening, hearing and acting on what they say.

It could save lives. Why do I say that? Do you remember when Toyota had to recall six million cars after a fatal crash? They’d seen two thousand reports about that defect. Crucially, the top brass ignored the suggestions made by more junior staff. By the end of it, 31% of Americans believed that Toyota cars were unsafe. Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s easy to avoid. Talk to the tenants and the call centre. Walk into that room now and see how hard they’re working. You might learn yourself something. Find out what vexes them and fix it. That’s how you keep out of the headlines.

(Source of data on Toyota: The Intelligence Trap – David Robson)

25% of PRS landlords looking to sell

To Let Sign

A quarter of private rented sector (PRS) landlords are looking to sell at least one property in the next year, a survey has revealed.

According to The Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) quizzing of 2,500 landlords, over 25% are keen to offload property – the highest amount since way, way back in…2016.

The RLA’s research also found that 23% of the landlords have seen an increase in rental property demand over the last three months, while 57% noted no change.

David Smith, RLA policy director, said: ‘All the talk of longer tenancies will mean nothing if the homes to rent on not there in the first place.

‘The government’s tax increases on the sector are already making it difficult for tenants to find a place to live, with many landlords not renewing tenancies. If rushed and not thought through, planned changes to the way landlords can repossess properties risk making the situation even worse.

‘Action is needed to stimulate supply with pro-growth taxation and a process for repossessing homes that is fair to all.’


Brexit, Halloween, Grenfell: Latest HQN magazine issue out now


The latest edition of HQN’s The Governor magazine is now available online! (And also in print – the old-fashioned, slower, more papery version of online.)

And now I’m going to tell you about some of the things that are in it:

Tiptop journalist Jules Birch has a tremendous feature in which he examines the Halloween Brexit implications for the social housing sector (and some of it is quite scary).

There’s an eight-page edition of HQN’s Evidence journal, featuring topical housing research and analysis from leading academics.

Colin Wiles looks at the links between stigma and the way social housing is planned, designed and built.

And of course, HQN CEO Alistair McIntosh’s inimitable voice can be found is in the house, too. Here’s a taste:

It’s getting on for two years since the fire. How should we mark it in the right way? What about this idea as part of it?

Every day we read of shoddy new builds and of poor doors, tenant’s children not being allowed in play grounds while their mums and dads are banned from the gym. At the same time associations want more grant to shore up their business plans as sales of homes have dried up.

Of course the associations need help to build. So give them the cash. But with strings. Any new homes paid for with grant should be safe, well finished and with no segregation whatsoever. This should be checked carefully before the money is paid out.

I’m not kidding myself that this is the whole of the answer. But it’s a start. So far all we have had is warm words. Use grant to halt stigma in its tracks now.

Read the new issue by clicking any of this bit!

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