House poll has shaky foundation
Housing associations place a great deal of importance on tenant satisfaction, and at the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) we compare levels of satisfaction in key areas across the sector and with other social landlords, such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
So the Big Tenant Survey from Housing Partners, with the statement that social landlords in Northern Ireland had the most dissatisfied tenants in the UK outside of London, came as a surprise.
NIFHA's figures, reflecting surveys carried out across 25 associations, offer a very different narrative on satisfaction among housing association tenants in Northern Ireland.
NIFHA's tenant satisfaction survey indicates that 84% of housing association tenants are satisfied with the services provided by their association and the neighbourhood they live in.
NIFHA measures information on accessibility and communication and the quality of the repairs and maintenance services provided.
We also ask if tenants feel that they are kept informed about things that affect them (89% did) and if their views are taken into account by their landlord (75% did).
NIFHA welcomes the perspective gained through UK-wide comparisons, but without any recognition of the diverse operating environments and demographics, the Big Tenant survey is not comparing like with like.
The study highlighted concerns in relation to welfare reform. NIFHA and our members shared concerns regarding direct payments to landlords, and lobbying across the housing and voluntary sectors led to a concession on this measure in Northern Ireland.
Tenants will be able to continue having their rent paid directly to their landlord. The survey, reported in the Belfast Telegraph, failed to reflect this important difference from the rest of the UK.
Our members are not complacent and recognise that they can always do more to meet tenants' expectations of their landlord.
However, contrary to the position presented by the Big Tenant Survey, that conversation is already under way and housing associations locally are building on a strong foundation.
Jennie Donald is deputy CEO of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations