Opinion: The importance of transparency | News

Opinion: The importance of transparency

By Helen Evans, Chief Executive, Network Homes

When it comes to housing associations and social media, more often than not residents only tend to get in touch with us when something goes wrong.

So, it was refreshing to see positive messages posted on social media recently from leaseholder groups about how we’ve been handling some aspects of building and fire safety issues at Network Homes.

At Network we aim to practice what I have called ‘radical transparency’, which basically means that we should share any and all information with residents that they ask for, unless there is a specific legal, commercial or safety concern with doing so.

This of course includes our building safety work that we’re carrying out on buildings across our portfolio.

The positive feedback from leaseholders came about as a result of our online document library. We have chosen as a business to make as many documents pertaining to our residents’ building and fire safety available to view on our website as possible.

This means many of our residents are able to access their building’s Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) without even having to get in touch with us.

On a side note, we’re also proud of the documents themselves which are put together by our consultant Savills in such a way to be clear and concise, even to someone without a housing or construction background.

Alongside this, we also post any EWS1 building safety certificates on the website and write to residents to let them know when we have obtained one for their block. This again means they can access it readily if/when they need to, instead of having to trawl through their post or documents.

We also upload the letters we send out so residents can see all the communications they’ve had on building safety issues in one place. The facility is fully searchable and clearly broken down by building or estate.

Transparency is also about visibility and during the pandemic, we’ve been keen to carry on engaging positively with our residents in affected buildings. We’ve held several virtual resident meetings over Microsoft Teams, giving residents the opportunity to hear from and to speak directly to our building safety team to ask questions and air their concerns.   

Now more than ever it’s imperative that we’re being transparent with our residents. The pandemic has brought uncertainty and insecurity to many people’s lives and since Grenfell, we’ve seen how crucial it is that our residents trust us. Trust can mean many things, but in this case, it’s about being open and honest about the situation many of our leaseholders find themselves in, and the options going forward, while making it as easy as possible for them to access all the information they need. This is the least we can do.

They have managed to get themselves on the property ladder. Worked hard, saved up and bought a property. And through no faut of their own they’re now facing uncertainty and potentially bills to cover the work.

In the meantime, we’re working hard to lobby the Government for more funding and certainty on the risk profile of our buildings to try and resolve the situation for our residents as quickly and fairly as possible.