YHN tenants' survey reveals growing dissatisfaction as council prepares to take back 25,000 homes

The woman tasked with overseeing a dramatic overhaul of Newcastle’s council housing has warned there is “no magic wand”, after a survey revealed growing disapproval among residents.

Newcastle City Council will officially shut down Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) on July 1 and return control of its social housing stock to the civic centre, after 20 years of it being run by the arms-length management organisation. And, just a few weeks before the major reforms, the results of YHN’s final tenant survey have laid bare the scale of the task facing the local authority.

According to a study with 4,500 tenants, only 50.1% are satisfied overall with YHN – a fall from 64.9% in 2023. Just 57.1% said they were satisfied that their home is safe, while only 38.2% felt that the landlord listens to tenants’ views.

YHN’s worst score was for the handling of complaints, which just 17.4% of residents said they were satisfied with. The results, released last week, show a fall in every metric measured compared to 12 months ago – including in happiness with YHN’s repairs service (53.3%) and handling of anti-social behaviour (45.2%).

City council bosses believe they can save £1 million per year by getting rid of YHN, which was set up in 2004, and have pledged better housing conditions and stronger accountability for dealing with residents’ concerns. Vicky McDermott, recently appointed as the authority’s new director of housing and communities, has vowed to make staff a more visible presence on estates – but has warned that it will take time for the council to fully understand “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the 25,000 properties it is taking back.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “The first thing has to be making sure we have really positive routes so that residents can raise issues with us, making sure that those are visible and that residents understand them. But what is also important is that there is a reality here in that there is not a magic wand or a magic money tree.

“We will be working really closely with residents to put together an improvement plan, focusing on the areas that really matter to residents.”

One of the council’s first tasks will be to complete a full condition survey of every single council home in the city, with 14% currently not meeting the Decent Homes Standard. Ms McDermott joins the council from the Regulator of Social Housing and was previously placed in charge of Birmingham’s Prospect Housing after an inspection uncovered poor standards of accommodation and health and safety breaches.

Speaking to the LDRS at Newcastle Civic Centre last week, she added: “I am coming from the regulator, so the issues of safety and compliance are writ large for me. I have worked with some organisations that were in really dire situations. It is crucial that we make sure people’s homes are safe and secure.

"At the end of the day, people cannot have the kind of lives that they want and have great opportunities if their house is not safe, secure, and comfortable. That is a massive priority for me.

“We are embarking on a stock condition survey, which means we will look at every single property and understand what needs to be done. Across the entire stock, that is going to take a period of time. I am really keen to make sure we prioritise that and at the end of it we will know which types of properties and which areas are likely to be at most risk and in need of significant investment.”

YHN said it was “disappointed” with the findings of its tenant satisfaction survey and was “ taking these results very seriously”. A spokesperson added: “We will be working closely with Newcastle City Council to ensure that we have plans in place to ensure that these results improve and that we meet the needs of our customers.”