Consumer-centred housing

Launched in December 2008, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) is the independent regulator for social housing in England, with a clear remit from Parliament to put tenants and tenants’ interests first. To deliver this, the TSA is looking to implement new standards for landlords to ensure tenants get the best service and opportunities to be involved in decisions about their homes.
The TSA currently regulates housing associations, but from this spring it will also regulate other providers of social housing, including local authorities and arms-length management organisations. For the first time, all 8.4 million social housing tenants, and the five million people who are already on, or are forecast to join housing waiting lists, will benefit from similar levels of protection, choice and better services.

Delivery & accountability
People living in social housing today often have fewer choices over the services they receive than in other forms of housing, and the TSA believes that the time for a new consumer-centred approach to housing delivery is now overdue.  
It is important that the new regulatory system reinforces the steps being taken to strengthen local delivery and accountability. It must also ensure no unnecessary burdens are placed on local authorities. Good regulation should let the best landlords get on with the job, while responding appropriately should problems arise.
There are some excellent local authority and ALMO landlords up and down the country, but where this is not the case and tenants are not getting the deal they deserve, the TSA will act so that the standard of services improves. Having a decent home and good housing services should be a right – irrespective of who your landlord happens to be.
To understand what issues matter most to tenants, the TSA has listened to tenants’ views. Last year it embarked on the National Conversation, the largest tenant consultation to ever be held, to give tenants the opportunity to have their voices heard and tell the TSA what issues are most important to them.  

National standards
Based on this feedback, the TSA has put together its national standards for social housing – six new standards that social housing providers will have to meet from this spring – which are the centrepiece of the TSA’s new regulatory framework. The standards require providers to set out what they offer to tenants and set local standards that reflect the priorities of local communities. The framework includes standards on repairs and maintenance, anti-social behaviour, quality of accommodation and financial viability.
The TSA is also challenging providers. This starts with challenging them to be financially viable and well governed. The gap between excellent and mediocre affordable housing services today is both inexplicable and unacceptable – so the TSA is working with tenants and landlords to help providers raise their game.
Viability has been a key priority for the TSA. Since its launch the TSA has worked hard to ensure that tenants homes and associations’ finances have been protected during the economic recession. At the end of the first year not a single home had been put at risk and over £7bn of new finance has been raised by associations.
At the core of the TSA’s vision for social housing in the future is an emphasis on ‘co-regulation’. This means an increased role for tenants working in partnership with their landlord in deciding how to run services locally, rather than the TSA setting very detailed regulations centrally.
The TSA now remains on course to turn on its new regulations in April 2010 which will cut red tape and improve consumer involvement with a clear focus on matters such as rents, repairs and neighbourhoods – matters that tenants care about most.

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