16 September, 2014

Approaches to Tenancy Management in the Social Housing Sector: Exploring new models and changes in the tenant-landlord relationship

In the wake of the financial crisis, welfare reforms and cuts to local government funding, housing associations – organisations that provide social housing – are increasingly operating in a complex social, economic and political environment. In response to these challenges, housing providers are developing new and creative responses to handling how tenancies are allocated and how tenants are supported.

The purpose of this report is to examine some of these new models of tenancy management. It is not intended to provide definitive answers or to assert that one model is correct, but to act as a starting point and to provoke debate. Some of the models have been implemented as pilots; the benefits and challenges are still being examined internally. In combining in-depth case studies at eight housing providers, an online survey of other housing providers, and interviews with tenants at the case study organisations, this report captures a breadth of perspectives from across the sector. It stimulates discussion on how these models have been implemented, their applicability in different organisations, and explores the practical, policy, social and business questions they prompt.


Promising practices must be adapted according to context, with shared learning disseminated, but models not treated as blueprints. Housing associations employ a variety of staff members with diverse skills and can capitalise on existing expertise. It is also important to both recognise the importance of pre-tenancy work in the context of long-term tenancy sustainment and acknowledge the links between community investment and tenancy management.

During this project, conversations have been happening between some of the organisations that participated. These ongoing conversations, along with further findings from the pilots and models, have resulted in agile models that are continuously adapting to learning. For the housing providers involved in this research, reviewing the relationship between landlord and tenant is not static.

The research findings suggest that housing associations could rely more on mutualist justifications for conditionality by directly advertising (and capitalising on) the fact that these models are not only about providing support for individuals or about getting individuals to pay rents, but about a cultural shift – both for housing association staff and for tenants – that signifies collective responsibility.

New forms of tenancy management are clearly increasingly popular – the sector as a whole is aware of and talking about these models. However, further in-depth, longitudinal research is needed, as these models are still relatively new and there is not significant evidence about how these models perform in the long run.

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Approaches to Tenancy Management in the Social Housing Sector: Exploring new models and changes in the tenant-landlord relationship

PUBLISHED: September 2014

AUTHORS: Mary-Kathryn Railings

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