Written by Sarah Park, Head of Madano’s Investment, Development and Regeneration (IDR) practice

“Housing is about people,” said Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, at last week’s Housing Conference. This reality is often a forgotten fact during dinner-party conversations about London house prices and within industry reports about yield and land value.

But how and where people and families live – especially in social housing – has been under media scrutiny for the past 12 months, which makes the imminent Social Housing Green Paper one of the most important housing papers in recent times. Developed to respond to the concerns of tenants, underlined in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, and set out to initiate greater conversation about the lives of those people living in social housing, the public and the industry have a vested interest in what James Brokenshire is about to propose.

From a strategic communications point of view, the Green Paper has two equally important roles; 1,000 direct interviews and 7,000 online responses online have helped shape the report so language, tone and context needs to resonate with a public that wants to see empathy as part of the process of change. And communications is no longer simply about words but about action. The publication of the Green Paper has the potential to expose Registered Providers to an immediate ‘holding to account’ of any pledges made – even at this proposal stage. RPs will need to start communicating effectively with their tenants from the get go.

The RPs that anticipate how residents may react to the Green Paper, and respond by communicating with them in the first instance with clear messaging and empathy, will help prevent misinterpretation and establish transparency. Opening channels of communication will be a positive act alongside a national announcement that is certainly guaranteed not to appease everyone. As many RPs already know, complaints, grievances and proactivity from residents groups can be a good resource of information and insight rather than something to be quickly dispelled, and as a result an opportunity to halt problems before they happen.

In his first housing speech to think tank Policy Exchange, in Westminster on Monday, James Brokenshire said it was ‘..a privilege to lead this work..’ What he proposes in the Social Housing Green Paper is further Governmental response to the Grenfell disaster and will undoubtedly be complex. Communications won’t solve the problems that currently face social housing, or drive the Green Paper but they should be regarded as an integral element to its execution. People want to be heard and they want conversation.

Find out more about Madano’s expertise in the built environment by viewing our IDR page here.