Engaging communities in local decisions is central to what housing associations do. How many other large companies across the UK put their customers at the very heart of its decision-making?
Being a tenant and on the Board of Scotland’s biggest Registered Social Landlord fills me with pride for this very reason as I truly believe Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is an organisation that really cares about people and communities.
My journey to the Board of one of the UK’s leading providers of social housing is not a typical one. I’m from Cameroon and I lived in England for a few years before moving to Glasgow in 2007. A mechanical engineer by trade, I live with my wife and two young children in Knightswood in the west of the city.
Glasgow is the only place in the UK I’ve been where you can talk to people you don’t know. The people are so friendly.
I joined the GHA Board in September 2014 and from my first meeting I was fascinated. The Board members are friendly and approachable and have gone the extra mile to help me in any way they can. The whole experience has really helped my confidence.
As a tenant Board member you have a direct influence over policies that affect 40,000 tenants’ homes and their local communities, such as setting rent levels, deciding what to build and where, to improve some homes and demolish others. That’s a big responsibility.
Being a Board member gives me a better understanding of how GHA relates to tenants, communities and Glasgow City Council. I am learning all the time and am given every opportunity to ask questions about GHA’s aims and how the business is run.
In my role as a Board member, I attended last year one of the industry’s key events, the Chartered Institute of Housing conference, where I spoke to other tenants and Board members to find out how they look after their tenants. It was a great experience.
I was appointed to the Board after being involved in the African Housing Forum.
The Forum is a platform that allows African tenants to have their voice heard and influence GHA, and it helps GHA consider African tenants’ points of view too.
As a member of the Forum, I bring up issues to the Board, often about jobs and training.
I also raise awareness of opportunities and tenant involvement in decision-making to African tenants through the Forum.
My advice to tenants who want to get involved would be to talk to GHA or your own social landlord and get involved with the community engagement activities. It’s worthwhile and makes a difference. Building that relationship is a good way of making sure your voice is heard.
GHA is part of Wheatley Group, Scotland’s leading housing, care and property-management organisation. Being a part of Wheatley allows us to use our size and scale to do more for my fellow tenants than ever before.
One such way is through the Wheatley Foundation, which I am also a director.
The Wheatley Foundation launches this year and will support community projects to tackle poverty and social isolation, increase educational opportunities, get people online and create jobs. It’s a really exciting time.
I’m privileged to be part of Boards that make sure services are inclusive and accessible and reflect the needs of all the people we work for.
Of course, I am not alone. I am just one of many tenants who play an active role in the strategic direction of GHA. In fact, tenants influence what GHA does in so many ways, including:
• Area Committees: three Area Committees covering the North East, North West and South of Glasgow agree grassroots projects to make their areas better and safer;
• Local housing committees: our 15 local committees help establish local housing priorities;
• Scrutiny Panel: examines how GHA performs and reports back to GHA bosses and the Board
• inspection teams: look at services from a tenant’s perspective and report back on what works well and not so well.
• Jean Albert Nietcho is a GHA Board member, www.wheatley-group.com