Kirsty Wells: Assessing the Scottish Social Housing Charter

The social housing charters introduction has helped to focus landlords on improving their performance. Picture: PA

The social housing charters introduction has helped to focus landlords on improving their performance. Picture: PA

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Quality is on the rise following drive for higher standards writes Kirsty Wells

With a public consultation on the Scottish Social Housing Charter closing yesterday, this is an opportune moment to reflect on its impact on the social housing sector since coming into force in April 2012.

Introduced as part of a Scottish Government drive to improve the quality of landlord services, the charter establishes a set of standards and outcomes against which tenant satisfaction and the performance of social landlords – both housing associations and local authorities – can be consistently measured.

Since its introduction, the Scottish Housing Regulator has published two annual reports covering 2013-14 and 2014-15. It is too early to draw clear conclusions through a consistent cohort of data. However, a comparison of the first two SHR annual reports shows improvements in efficiency of repairs, the number of properties meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, the management of rent collection and re-lets and the resolution of cases of anti-social behaviour.

Overall, the charter’s introduction has helped to focus landlords on improving their performance in those areas with the greatest overall impact on tenant satisfaction. This has brought about incremental improvements across many indicators, particularly for local authority landlords who started from a lower baseline. At the same time, our own experience shows large variations between organisations in the pace of improvement. Tenants can still find it challenging to influence landlord decision-making or to communicate meaningfully with landlords about service improvements.

There can be no doubt that the performance of social landlords is under scrutiny like never before. If anything, that scrutiny looks set to intensify further with the launch of a refreshed charter next year. Social landlords need to rise to that challenge.

• Kirsty Wells is head of HouseMark Scotland

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