Monday, December 22, 2008

The Lowdown on TP

Tenant Participation

Housing NSW is working on a new framework to consolidate the patchwork of existing organisations and confused definitions of what TP is all about. The first stage of this process has seen new rules for the ongoing funding of Regional Tenants Resource Services and Public Tenant Councils. HNSW has appointed a new body, the Statewide Social Housing Tenants Advisory Committee (SHTAC), to replace a previous PH Customer Council whose size and general level of internal conflict was considered to be unworkable. While a consultative committee such as the SHTAC has a useful role to play as a channel of communication between tenants and the department, tenant activists are rightly worried at any prospect that it will replace a robust system of tenant representation. In the meantime, HNSW needs to release more information about the actual achievements of this body. Further consultations between HNSW and tenants and other stakeholders are planned for early next year as further elements of the new TP structures are rolled out.

While consultative committees have their place, HNSW should look at schemes introduced by "New" Labor in Britain in which tenants are increasingly members of the boards of management of their estates. An article by Tony Gilmour, a Sydney Uni researcher published in the latest Shelter NSW newsletter, stated that in Manchester, for example, tenants hold fully 1/3 of the directorships of organisations managing over 75,000 units of housing stock.

And in 2009, UK Tenants are looking forward to the formation of the National Tenants Voice, an independent non-profit tenant lobbying group to help shape government policy, with funding of $5 million annually.

What a great idea, but are NSW tenants up to it?

It depends on which should rightly come first, the chicken or the egg:

It depends on whether you believe:

  • that if you give tenants a meaningful role that really leads to change, they'll rise to the occasion, or
  • that you can't trust tenants to manage themselves until they get their collective act together, until the old warhorses stop sniping at each other, until there is a sizable number of tenants whose horizons extend beyond their own dripping taps, until tenants finally realise that there is no point expecting "the Department" to be its own opposition, and take steps to set up their own tenants union, which probably means until gen-x, y, and z pull their fingers out, come up with some new ideas and dispatch the old guard

Dear Helmsperson eagerly awaits the dictatorship of the tenantariat, and may it come speedily in her lifetime. Amen.

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