Fayann Simpson, board member of L&Q Group and Sustainability for Housing, considers how housing associations can approach decarbonisation while keeping residents happy.
For some residents decarbonisation might not be their priority, is that fair to say?
I think you have to think about the language you use when talking about these issues. Decarbonisation, ESG and Net Zero may not roll off the tongues of all residents. But residents are interested in how to save on their bills, using less resources, health and wellbeing, how their homes and neighbourhoods will change in years to come and the future and opportunities for their families.
The ways in which you reach out to people and talk to people is so important. We have our formal governance structures and committees. I think it’s fair to say not everyone wants to do that but we’ve got an online forum that captures about 4,000 residents. We conduct short surveys which get a lot of response from residents. We also have residents involved in their communities at grass roots levels making a huge difference.
It’s about thinking of different ways that you can engage with residents. I think you need to be creative about how you do it and thinking about the diversity of the residents you have.
It’s important to think about what you are trying to achieve. You need to know what you want to do to move things forward.
It’s also about feedback. Sometimes what is missing from the link is sharing what you do with all the great insight you get from residents in the past landlords might not have done this effectively. If you want more resident engagement, be open about how you’re using the insight you already have and let residents tell that story.
Is there a need to be clear about what you’re trying to do – and being open about it if things don’t work out?
Absolutely, it’s even more important to talk about it if things haven’t gone well. It’s not just that ‘you said, we did’ conversation, residents need to be able to see and feel the difference, and if they don’t, then they should be able to voice their concerns. Remember, if things aren’t working, residents will be the first know as they live in the homes and experience the services you provide first-hand. If things aren’t working you can work with residents to put things right
More generally, does there need to be a reset of the resident/HA relationship?
There has been a lot of talk about co-production and we just need to be very challenging about what that actually means. When we look at our maintenance programmes and our services we need to consider whether we are getting people involved before all the decision making is done and dusted. If not, then it’s not meaningful engagement and it’s not as powerful as it could be.
There is a need to treat people as equals. Residents have a huge wealth of knowledge and organisations should be tapping into this rather than doing it all themselves. We should be working with residents to look at the challenges and priorities we face and to shape the solutions together with residents.
The sector needs to be realistic about what we have got to do and I think the sector has got to be more responsible than ever in making sure that we really seek out resident insight.
Do you personally see ESG as a powerful way to get through to residents?
Definitely, because I think if you communicate it properly people see that it relates to their everyday lives.
From what I see, residents have an expectation that HAs are doing something about ESG issues so there should be an opportunity to meet half way.
There is so much interest there and some of the things that residents are doing in their communities is amazing, especially to do with the environment. Residents aren’t bystanders – they are leading they way in their communities. The sector has a powerful story to tell and residents can tell that story on how it impacts their lives and the difference they are making.
How can ESG reporting benefit residents?
With the reporting that we are doing, for me it’s about driving change, so the thinking should always be ‘how can this help us improve?’.
More openness in terms of our future plans is needed and we need to work with residents to set those priorities. If our priorities are not aligned with residents then we are going down the wrong path.
Fayann Simpson, board member of L&Q Group and Sustainability for Housing
Speaking in Symposium session 8 – The Debate: Making it work for residents