Transparency is Always the Best Policy

Peter Watson
Peter Watson

Housing Associations are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their transparency to both residents and the regulator, particularly when it comes to potential safety issues. What are the options for gaining this transparency though?

Since the fire at Grenfell Tower, which tragically claimed the lives of 72 people, the concept of transparency has been at the heart of the response, including demands for the inquiry to be open and transparent. Additionally, housing associations are under increased pressure to be transparent with both residents and the regulator.

Transparency has always been the best policy, but the need to demonstrate this transparency has increased in the aftermath of Grenfell, as a result of stories of residents who felt their concerns were ignored. This, in turn, has led to more widespread calls for authorities to communicate with and listen to residents.

In this blog post, we examine the need for greater transparency and the ways property software can help.

Why Transparency is Important

The fire at Grenfell Tower was a tragedy, but one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the event was the sense that it could have been avoided. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, it was revealed that a residents’ organisation, the Grenfell Action Group, had published 10 warnings in the years before the fire, highlighting safety concerns.

Nevertheless, there was a feeling that the warnings were ignored, or not taken seriously. As a result, residents felt that the authorities failed to prevent a predictable catastrophe from occurring. Understandably, this then led to wider concern about the ways in which councils and housing associations engage with their tenants.

It is essential that housing association tenants feel they are being kept up-to-date with important information, but also that they feel able to express thoughts and concerns to the association and have their views heard. This means having open channels for communication, and being clear with tenants about why actions are taken, and is especially critical when actions or views revolve around potential safety concerns.

“Housing associations have been clear in their commitment to take whatever steps are necessary to learn lessons from the tragedy at Grenfell tower,” says Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive of the Centre for Public Scrutiny. “Tenants and residents in Kensington and Chelsea and beyond have spoken of feeling powerless and stigmatised, of feeling that no one was listening, of a breakdown in trust between residents and those in authority.”

Transparency Through Property Software

One of the ways that housing associations can provide their residents with greater transparency and also make themselves more accountable is through the use of property technology, or PropTech. Engage have developed a resident portal, which is a property management web based app which UK housing associations can use to communicate with tenants.

Through this resident portal, it is easy to keep tenants informed with the latest news and information about services. In addition, there is the option to have resident forums, where both tenants and housing association staff can openly discuss issues, concerns and possible resolutions to problems, improving trust between the two groups.

Accountability is increased, because information is published and made viewable to all of those with access to the portal. This means residents can see communications and compare what is said to what is actually done. At the same time, regulators can also use the portal to check that their own requirements are being met, that transparency standards are being upheld, and that residents are being listened to, rather than ignored.

The software can also allow everybody to check precisely when concerns are raised by residents, when they are seen by staff at the housing association, and how long it takes before staff act upon the information they receive. Moreover, critical safety information, such as guidance for what to do in a fire, can be published and reinforced, while investigations, safety checks and other reports can be made easily accessible as well.

The Final Word

The fire at Grenfell Tower turned the spotlight onto housing association transparency and the level of communication that exists between residents and authorities. If lessons are to be learned from the tragedy, housing associations need to be more open with tenants and more willing to listen to their concerns and complaints.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to ensure that all housing association staff adhere to requirements for greater transparency is to make use of property software. The resident portal from Engage is a property management app UK housing associations and landlords can use to communicate important information to tenants and receive important feedback from residents, ultimately improving the levels of trust between all parties.



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