CAMPAIGNS: Ushering in the new landlord - Local Government

The issue of the transfer of council housing to new landlords is a contentious one. New landlords are able to inject desperately needed funds into rundown housing, funds which are simply not available to local authorities. But tenants fear that changes in the system will cause problems and lead to rents being raised.

The issue of the transfer of council housing to new landlords is a

contentious one. New landlords are able to inject desperately needed

funds into rundown housing, funds which are simply not available to

local authorities. But tenants fear that changes in the system will

cause problems and lead to rents being raised.



This was the situation faced by Poplar HARCA when the London Borough of

Tower Hamlets (LBTH) decided to transfer 2,900 homes on six estates in

the second phase of its programme of transfers. Any such transfer must

be agreed to by a majority of tenants, voting via ballot. The LBTH is

not allowed to campaign either way, but has a role in explaining the

implications to its tenants. The HARCA was set up by the LBTH to provide

a new landlord for homes to transfer to. The HARCA can gain access to

private money and Government funds not available to the council. It is

also allowed to campaign, and brought PR team The Grand Design in to

work with it.



Objectives



To encourage high turnout in the vote. To promote the Poplar HARCA as a

good deal for Poplar tenants.



Tactics



Prior to hiring The Grand Design to handle the HARCA’s PR, the LBTH

in-house team had started a rolling programme of newsletters, some

general and some targeted to specific estates, aimed at keeping

residents informed of the current situation.



Once the Poplar HARCA was established, The Grand Design worked on

developing its corporate identity, and then began publishing another

series of newsletters, this time in the association’s name.



The transfer of housing is a complex issue, and this was complicated by

the fact the many of the area’s residents do not speak English, so all

materials were translated into Bengali. House-to-house visits were

conducted to find out if residents intended to vote or had any further

questions.



Closer to the ballot, activities, such as family fun days, which would

result in direct contact with the tenants were held. Weekend stalls were

set up in major thoroughfares in the area, staffed by senior members of

the association.



The team also embarked on a media relations campaign, targeting both

local and national media as well as specialist housing publications. As

HARCA was the first of a new type of registered social landlord, it came

under close scrutiny from both the local authorities and the media.



Because the issue of transfer of housing is such a a hot one, much of

the campaigning involved reacting to the actions of those supporting a

’no’ vote. This included countering claims that the transfer was against

the best interests of tenants, and that their homes were being sold off

to big business.



Results



While the final turnout for the vote was strong, with 71 per cent of

eligible tenants voting, the vote was very close. However the Poplar

HARCA transfer was approved with 50.4 per cent of residents in favour.

This will lead to a pounds 77 million injection into the estate, most of

which would not otherwise have been available.



Verdict



In terms of meeting the objective of encouraging as many eligible voters

as possible to have their say, this campaign was successful. The vote

was 50.4 per cent in favour, meaning that the campaign was perhaps, less

of a success in quelling fears that the changes it will bring will

benefit the residents, rather than hurt them. However, should there be

any further campaigns of this sort, they will have the advantage of

real-life examples of the benefits which housing transfer can bring

about.



Client: London Borough of Tower Hamlets/Poplar Housing and Regeneration

Community Association (HARCA)

Campaign: Transfer of council housing to the Poplar HARCA

PR Team: In-house and The Grand Design

Timescale: March to July 1998

Cost: Undisclosed



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.