Putting council tenants and leaseholders in charge of their own housing services

Joint press release from Kingston Council and the Kingston Federation of Residents

Kingston’s 6,500 council tenants and leaseholders could soon be playing a lead role in running the borough’s Housing Service, if plans for an innovative community housing trust go ahead.

The proposals, which received unanimous backing from the Councillors at last night’s Health and Care Services Committee, would see tenants and leaseholders offered the majority of seats on a community housing trust management board, effectively putting them in charge of planning and delivering front-line Housing services.

Importantly, residents and leaseholders would remain tenants of the Council and the Council would retain ownership of the housing stock – key pre-requisites for both the Kingston Federation of Residents and the Council, who have worked closely for several months to develop this new resident-led management approach.

Councillor Ian George, Kingston Council’s Lead Member for Housing said:

This is an important first step towards giving residents a direct and substantial say in the running of their own housing services.  A fundamental part of our strategy is to hand back decision-making powers to those most affected by the services we provide.  I sincerely hope our tenants and leaseholders will seize this chance and support the proposals.

Richard Grosvenor, Secretary of the Kingston Federation of Residents, said:

For the past decade or more, the Federation has repeatedly called for the greater involvement of residents in the provision of housing services.  One of the vital improvements we must achieve is the reintegration of key housing functions – such as repairs and maintenance, rent collections and debt management – which have been managed by other council departments for the last five years.  All the feedback we’ve received from residents is that this has led to a decline in service standards, so bringing all housing-related services back together under a fully integrated housing trust will, in our view, produce immediate benefits.

Paul Johnston, a former Kingston Council housing committee chairman and now the Federation’s Chair, described the move towards a resident-led community housing trust as:

“a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for residents, whom he urged to take an interest in the proposed transfer: “Throughout my many years of work in council housing, one of the most common complaints from tenants and leaseholders is that their council landlord fails to deliver a good service and that they could do a better job themselves. They may well be right, and now for the first time they have the chance to prove it.

Over the next six months, the Council and the Kingston Federation of Residents will be talking to tenants and leaseholders to explain the proposals in more detail and establish the level of support.  If sufficient support exists, the aim would be to secure the necessary approvals from the Council and central Government and to have the Community House Trust operational by spring 2016.

The Federation of Kingston Residents is the leading voice and advocate for social housing in the borough. For further information please contact Paul Johnston (Federation Chair) on 020 8405 0244 or Richard Grosvenor (Federation Secretary) on 020 8974 5806 or 07801 321 222