A Jubilee of collaboration and learning at this year’s TPAS Annual Conference

Covid has challenged everyone over the last 2 years.  Resilience and determination have meant tenants and landlords have found new ways of working that meant they can fully participate and engage in their local communities.

The TPAS Annual Conference which took place from 10 – 12 June at the Golden Jubilee Hotel near Glasgow brought together speakers, tenants, landlords, Government and suppliers from across the sector to explore strategies and opportunities around tenant participation. MSP Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenant Rights spoke about how challenging the last few years have been for social landlords, tenants and communities and how inspiring it was to see people to work together.  He emphasised how great it was to be back out meeting people face to face again and how important conferences such as the TPAS conference were to bring people back together face to face and stimulate debate and collaboration. Mr Harvie emphasised the need for everyone in Scotland to have access to good quality housing that is safe, warm and part of a thriving community.  They have consulted with landlords, tenants and organisations such as TPAS to develop the Government’s strategy to tackle fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and create standards to improve quality housing.  They are focused on ensuring tenants know their rights and can challenge, as well as being protected.

The next focus for the Government is around tenant participation, including measures to support tenants in the Private Rented Sector and a focus on ensuring tenants receive good value for money.  Financial pressures that tenants are facing are immediate.  Scottish Government is working hard to ‘put money back in people’s pockets when they need it!’  They are regularly challenging the UK government to put strategies in place to help people challenged to pay fuel bills.   They are committed to ensuring tenants have warmer homes and lower builds and tackle issues around rising energy prices.

The Scottish Government are committed to building 110,000 homes by 2032, 20% of this focused on social housing and 10% in rural areas.  They are also driven to reach net zero by 2045 and are committed to ensuring social housing remains very high up on their priority.

Tina Mistry from headline conference sponsor AICO introduced the Housing Safety and Wellbeing taskforce, created by industry stakeholders, bringing together public, private and 3rd sector organisations to collaborate and share best practice.  The taskforce focuses on 6 key areas including health and wellbeing, net zero, housing quality, fuel poverty, fire and co safety, resident and tenant engagement.  The Taskforce has asked the question “What does safety and wellbeing mean to you?  If you want to contribute to this discussion, and join the next meeting of the forum which is on the 21st June at 6pm, contact Elaine on elaine.scoular@tpasscotland.org.uk.

Climate change is a big driver for many of the landlords. MD of Wheatley Homes Glasgow, Jehan Weerasinghe, the biggest housing association in Scotland shared their insights about navigating the climate crisis for tenants and landlords and their aim to become carbon neutral by 2026.  Most of their housing stock is classified as energy efficient, however there’s lots to be done.  Research indicates that energy prices could rise by an average of £708 by October!  To address this, Wheatley Group undertook a pilot to replace storage heaters in some of their Glasgow properties.  The pilot resulted in a 20% reduction in energy use, cost and carbon. There is a dedicated team of fuel advisors within the organisation working to help customers get onto a good tariff and navigate the support and funds available to help them tackle the fuel price rise.  The Group has also put a £2m energy crisis hardship fund to help tenants.

Affordability in the rented sector is a huge issue for the sector.  1 in 5 people in Scotland are living in poverty and poverty is exacerbated by housing costs.  We need to ensure people are living in safe, affordable homes.  The supply of affordable social homes is starting to address this; however, demand still far outstrips supply. Callum Chomczuk of CIH Scotland headed up an interesting debate about what we mean by affordability and the policy/legislative asks needed to support a shared understandability of affordability across the whole sector.  And Craig Sanderson (Edinburgh Poverty Alliance) challenged the issue of what it really meant by affordability.   Craig talked about the supply of new housing and how some of the stats published by councils and the government didn’t add up, resulting in many people getting into debt.

As well as a wealth of interesting talks, attendees were treated to a visit to two of Clydebank’s community gardens.  The first trip was to Growing Beardmore is a community garden with barrier free design in Dalmuir which was developed to reduce social isolation during Covid restrictions.  The group also visited the Dalmuir Out of Schools Care Group Garden Plot run by Dalmuir Park Housing Association providing high quality, safe and affordable out of school care services for children aged 4 – 12.  The redeveloped land provides a facility for children and staff to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

The conference finished with a healthy debate with individuals from across Government, Housing Associations, Tenants Associations and Stakeholders where the panel discussed how individuals must keep adapting homes and methods of engagement to continue to communicate with customers and listen to what they want and need.  Panellist George Walker from the Scottish Housing Regulator shared insights into how SHR can support Landlords in doing this.

Elaine Scoular, Interim CEO said, “The conference is a pivotal event in TPAS Scotland’s calendar.  It was fantastic to see individuals from as far away as Shetland and Northern Ireland joining us for the conference and actively getting involved in the discussions.  There were lots of questions and sharing of ideas and learning throughout the 3 days and we hope everyone got something out of their attendance.  A huge congratulations to everyone who won a National Good Practice Award and those that picked up their TP Certificates and a massive thank you goes out to all the staff and colleagues who made the conference happen.  We’re all looking forward to a well-deserved rest!”