Making resident involvement centre stage

Yvonne Davies has over 38 years of experience working in housing and communities, including her role as Head of Housing and Economic Development at the Audit Commission and Manging Director at a Merseyside Housing Association.

For the last 13 years, she has led YD Consultants, which supports housing providers with resident involvement and empowerment, board and customer governance, board and resident scrutiny and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Since 2011 Yvonne has worked with NHC on their joint Resident Involvement Conference. This years’ event will be held online on 4th and 12th June, find out more on our events page.


Can you tell us a bit more about the partnership between the NHC and yourself on the Resident Involvement Conference?  

As Head of Housing and Economic Development for the Audit Commission (AC) I spoke at the NHC Resident Involvement Conference for five years up to 2011.  At the time it was an in-person event for two days at the Blackpool Hilton.

I then moved to set up my own consultancy ( and worked with the NHC to ensure tenant involvement and good practice in involvement and empowerment remained current.

I always meant to get a ‘proper job’ when I left the AC, but my consultancy has been popular and gives me a great deal of freedom to make a difference where I can add most value.

Alongside the NHC, we have been running the Resident Involvement Conference together now for 13 years. I’m pleased to say it’s still very popular. Not long after this, and to meet growing demand, we started a winter Tenant Voice Conference with the appetite for information and best practice being high all year round.

This has been helpful in more recent years of tenant consultation on new standards and new laws, given the influx of ongoing change.

As difficult as the covid years were, this time also had its benefits too –we moved online, offerering the conference free of charge, which was of mutual benefit to NHC and YDC members.


What have been some of your highlights from previous years events?

I like to think that tenants and staff who have attended the conference have been able to take improvement ideas back to implement them, in a way that suits them.

We know by attending, asking questions, and making comments, they have contributed and influenced regulatory and government thinking.

Overall, there have been many highlights over the years – probably far too many to mention! In person it’s been the connections made and ideas exchanged in workshops at the conference.

Online – it’s people saying “yes to speaking” – being more readily available to give up an hour (as opposed to sacrificing a day plus travel time which is much more difficult), to share their ideas and to take questions. I learn something new each year and enjoy sharing that with my network.

The Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman Service speaking directly to tenants in bitesize chunks has also enabled tenants to understand their rights and helps them to hold their landlord to account.


Can you tell us a bit more about this year’s event? What are you looking forward to most?  

We always have great speakers who are doing lots of innovative things! In particular, I like the “shoplifting” of ideas that are shared freely across landlords and tenants on their approaches to engagement.

I always try to throw in some challenges too from those who are at the top of their game, so no-one gets complacent!

I love the questioning and challenges from tenants to the speakers from the Government, Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman including their, “So what difference will it make for me?” style questions”.

This year we have contributions and latest thinking from the Regulator, Ombudsman and Government. We also have some challenges and opportunities offered by the Stop Social Housing Stigma tenants’ group who are developing a tenant pledge and toolkit to help landlords address local social stigma issues, and the same by HACT and Shelter to make the case for more social housing.

We have some great practitioners and tenants speakingfrom organsiations such as L&Q, MHS, Prima, Gateway HA. All will be sharing their challenges and helping us learn how they are overcoming them, through their actions.


How has resident engagement evolved and changed over the past 50 years?

There has certainly been much change over the years. The Audit Commission (AC) was big on involvement and tenant services, measuring both the service as it was, and the prospects for improvement for all housing services until 2011, when the AC closed down.

That meant no more public score reporting on tenant services, which was sometimes a poor motivator, but effective for some landlords.

In 2012 the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) stepped in as an arm of the Regulator, producing some good practice reports and holding landlords to account when they suspected “serious detriment” or life and limb safety issues.

The TSA also invented co-regulation, due to their limited resources and lack of proactive brief on tenant services. With the expectation that landords would deliver and annually agree this in their statements of accounts.

This led to Boards and Councils self-assessing their compliance and gave me plenty of work as a consultant – but for many, it was no longer an organisational risk and therefore not as prominent for decision makers. A few years later, the TSA had a name change to the Regulator of Social Housing, but again with a non active remit.

The cut in rents from Government at their next election was detrimental and saw many landlords lose money and focus on what got measured instead of continuing their involvement journey. The cost-of-living crisis and covid also hampered landlords’ ability to reinvest and connect in involvement.

Many excellent involvement staff left the sector. We lost skills and commitment to meet, listen to customers in evening meetings and weekends and to follow through on issues.

Covid set us back on engagement, as landlords looked after the most vulnerable and trained staff on new platforms as we moved on-line with engagement. We lost, but also gained some new tenants to engagement. Thankfully however it has settled now, with most good landlords offering a hybrid approach.

The tragic fire at Grenfell where 71 people lost their lives was a key to change. This must lead to a lasting positive impact on safety and tenancy services, with a greater focus on hearing and acting for social housing residents.

The post government roadshows which followed the fire in 2017, were run by government and attended by Ministers. Here, they heard tenants talk of the social housing stigma, a lack of respect and concerns around multiple repair issues.

All of these were picked up in a 2018 Government Green Paper, which became a White paper in 2020 and law (the Social Housing Regulation Act) in July 2023 – effective after consultation, for Regulation by the RSH from April 2024.

Most importantly, new requirements on inspection and new consumers standards on tenant accountability and tenant influence mean that more staff are being employed again, in involvement.

As a sector, we are turning the ship back around to where it was and hopefully will remain and get even better. Involvement is starting to focus on measurable outcomes for tenants and landlords, which is where it should be.


And what do you hope to see over the next 50 years?

I will not be here in 50 years! But I am old enough now to see the same issues going around again and again. We have started inspecting again!

The Government still has a few challenges for landlords to add, like new regulations and inspection, requirements on safety repairs/damp and mould, Decent Homes Two and the Right to Information for tenants.

I am hopeful the Competency and Conduct Standard aimed at staff, where qualifications have been the key discussion, will move to its purpose which was based on customer care, addressing stigma, respect for tenants and how tenants should be listened to, heard and their views acted upon.

I am hopeful the inspection process will lead to landlords wanting to be at the top of their game in engagement and empowerment.

Very few things in the standards have changed – but the emphasis on inspection has sharpened the urgency of this and reignited excitement in involved residents that their views may be acted upon and more resources from landlords.

I feel we can now get away from titles like “Tenant” Board Members and instead start to see the resident contribution as a Board Member on customer services. I would like to think we will invest to support the skills of new and existing involved customers to maximise their contribution.

I’m hoping it is now clear that tokenistic involvement in Boards and Committees is not enough. We must reach out to all tenants with engagement and take note of their “so what difference will it make” questions.

It would also be good for landlords to say – we have no “hard to reach” groups – that way we know we have gone out of our way to gather every tenant’s view.

Generation Z is more socially minded, but they can’t afford to buy a home. It would be valuable to gather some of those younger views into engagement too, even if they are not the tenant yet.

What is great now is our more hybrid approach to involvement – online and in person surveys and zoom meetings, as well as face to face. I am sure and I hope this flexible approach will continue!  Residents use offices less too, so we are seeing more front line staff making changes and coming out to estates. I am not sure we have yet grasped, or use the intelligence this could bring back to our businesses to shape services, but this is improving.

Involvement is more dynamic now but what we haven’t yet maximised is evening meetings, which can be more inclusive of views of working households and holds the key to wider engagement, especially when run as hybrid and on a task and finish basis.

We are seeing more delegated powers to residents to approve policies and process change, where there are no resource implications outside the director’s own budget which is positive.

We are also beginning to see more landlords combining survey and involvement data.

More co-creation and co-design in focus groups of tenants, landlord staff and governors is growing too and is great to see.

At the end of the day our objective is clear. We all want the same thing – which is happy customers and great services.

In essence we don’t need anything complex or expensive, what we should be thinking about is:

  • A culture shift towards residents, where involvement outcomes are as ‘sexy’ and ‘newsworthy’, as the latest housing development.


  • The TSM’s and resident voices focussing Regulation on what matters most to tenants and keeping it real, (maybe more of a qualitative than measurement focus). A tenant said to me recently at a national conference– “I reported my dissatisfaction with the repairs service for two years and it got me nowhere including returning a number of surveys – will the TSM’s make a difference to that? or will I still need to find the Director’s phone number to fix my problem?”. We all know the TSM’s wont fix individual issues, however common.
  • Celebrate the contribution of great social landlords, and their involved tenants as they focus on doing the right thing and take responsibility to see things through to delivery, personally. That is what staff awards and rewards should be about.
  • Smile and welcome resident volunteer views – (they are a gift). At the end of the day, we should remember that we get paid – residents don’t. Residents give their time to improve services to see nothing happen and there is an expectation for us to do something with their contribution. We must listen but we must act too!

Happy 50th Birthday NHC, congratulations and on all you do – here’s to the next 50 and some fabulous tenant empowerment too!