We are the good guys

Why do MPs’ perceptions of housing associations matter?

They matter because your local MP might be a backbencher or a member of the opposition now, but one day they may be a government minister.

They matter because MPs have a constitutional role and people go to them when they get frustrated with the system.  

They matter because MPs contribute to party debates that create manifesto commitments that lead to legislative change. One of the top issues that constituents go to their MP about is housing. Often it is the inability to get affordable housing, but they also go when they don’t feel they are getting a good enough service. How we react to an MP’s inquiry says a lot about us as organisations.  

Earlier this year the Place Shaper Group decided that we needed to find out the reasons behind some negative comments made by MPs about housing associations during the passage of the Housing and Regeneration Bill - so members went to talk to their local MPs. This week our findings from these discussions have been published in a report, Heroes or villains? MPs’ perceptions of housing associations. The title tells you that we got a mixed reception. The main issues we identified were:

MPs naturally want a quick and full response to their constituent inquires. This is not surprising, as failure to do so directly impacts on MPs’ ability to respond to the people they serve and reflects very badly on housing associations. 

Forty per cent of MPs would appreciate more contact and better communication with the housing associations working in their constituencies. 

There was strong support for local focus (indeed 78 per cent of MPs fully supported the Place Shapers ethos) and concern about residents losing out if an association had very small stockholdings in an area and therefore couldn’t engage with the local authority or other local partners to help deal with issues that really matter to the resident, such as anti-social behaviour.

We recognise that our reputation is built upon not only the services provided to customers but also the quality of contact we have with key decision makers.  

MPs are key to the success of housing associations. Their personal experience of us informs their response to the legislative agenda. A poor reputation will result in a loss of support, which will be reflected in a tougher regulatory regime and tighter budgets.  

Our research suggests that there is still considerable support for the type of organisation we represent from across the political spectrum, but there is no room for complacency. Housing associations in general need to improve the quality of responsiveness to MPs. I believe this can be sorted.

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