LONG-suffering tenants hope they have made a first step towards re-building relations with housing chiefs.
Residents in the district called on landlord Orbit Housing Association for a meeting to clear the air over claims of poor treatment and neglect.
Helen Nelson, who lives in Shipston, set up a ‘tenants action group’ following a string of complaints including aggressive handling of rent arrears, poor communication, and shoddy repairs.
The Facebook group has attracted 360 members, and with the help of councillor and former Orbit tenant Jason Fojtik, held a meeting with Orbit representatives including chief executive Mark Hoyland.
Ms Nelson said: “The tenant led meeting with Orbit was the first of its kind nationwide, and the opportunity for tenants to speak directly to the decision makers was a good indication of Orbit wanting to work with tenants to improve services.
“Rebuilding the trust in Orbit that tenants have lost will take time but we feel this meeting was a very positive start.
“We look forward to continuing this relationship between the group and Orbit, where the voices of tenants are being heard and listened to.
“Over the coming months we also look forward to seeing the results of the action Orbit is taking.”
She added there was ‘obvious discomfort’ from the panel on hearing the issues tenants had been facing over recent years.
The panel offered ‘genuine’ apologies and said letters were automatically generated and it would assist those struggling with the replacement of benefits with Universal Credit, which has left many out of pocket.
They explained a team of ‘property managers’ had been recently introduced who would be on hand to visit properties in communities throughout the district.
An Orbit spokesperson added: “We are happy to have face-to-face conversations, which can be in the Greenhill Street office in Stratford by booking an advance appointment or we will come and see the customer in their home if that is easier for them. Our aim is to provide a service that is accessible for everyone.
“We were pleased to have an open conversation around the work we are doing to improve services, the response from the tenants’ forum was both fair and constructive.
“This valuable feedback will really help influence the work we are doing. We are improving many areas of our service and regularly seek feedback from our customers in a variety of ways.
“Some of the changes to the way we manage our repairs, housing and neighbourhoods will happen quickly, while others will take slightly longer to implement.”
Visit www.soadistricttag.wordpress.com for more details and plans for further meetings.