Time to be trailblazing: Emma responds to the Social Housing White Paper

Emma Palmer with a resident

The importance of listening to residents is a thread that runs through the new Social Housing White Paper. Residents have told Eastlight that affordability is key, as Chief Executive Emma Palmer reveals in this blog.

Time to be trailblazing

By Emma Palmer

Back in August, we asked Eastlight's residents what matters most to them. We were very grateful to receive well over 1,000 responses, alongside many from our teams.

What is noticeable when reading the new Social Housing White Paper is that the results mirror many of the issues identified as most important to residents up and down the country.

The White Paper emphasises energy efficiency – our residents told us this is a focus for them as well as the 'whole cost' of living in their homes.

Whilst traditional services like repairs will always be important, the ability for residents to have their say is a high priority – second only to health and wellbeing support.

And having listened to our residents we know that affordability – particularly in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – is what really matters.

Rebuilding trust

The report is, first and foremost, about ensuring the safety and security of social housing tenants following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017. It is about rebuilding tenants’ trust in their landlords. As a sector, we know we still have a great deal of work to do, and the White Paper is a significant step forward.

I'm pleased to be able to say that our approach is already largely in line with the government’s requirements – we involve residents in assessing our compliance with consumer standards and openly communicate our fire safety responsibilities. 

Of course, we want to do more. We are continuously listening to residents to ensure we meet their needs - and we are here to share our progress and compare notes with other housing providers to support each other however we can.

'Tenant voice'

What comes through loud and clear in the government's White Paper, is the emphasis on tenant voice. We are already able to demonstrate the value of having our resident shareholders there to help steer our organisation; and we're well aware that the way we consulted with residents in preparation for our merger was what really drove the process and made it possible to launch Eastlight in the middle of the first national lockdown.

As a trailblazing community gateway, we continue to push ahead and demonstrate what can be achieved when landlords work together with their tenants in a climate of trust and equality.

While we are still very much in the grips of a global pandemic, we now have the benefit of everything we've already learned about communicating with residents virtually. Just this week, we've completed the Future of Eastlight Festival, a series of online events which enabled residents to our strategic plans. Our teams will help us progress further at our People’s Festival in December.

Creating communities

As highlighted in the government's White Paper, building houses is about creating communities, and this chimes with Eastlight's commitment to not only delivering new homes, but also creating thriving communities. 

While we digest the detail in the White Paper and wait for the regulatory landscape to shift accordingly, there's plenty Eastlight will be addressing. Our priority is providing the safe homes and neighbourhoods we know our residents and communities in the East of England want and need.

We only know this because we listened. We will continue to do so.

Find out more about the Social Housing White Paper here