Rebuilding trust in social housing – the story of “Kate”, the dedicated board member

Not so long ago, in a vibrant community filled with families, friends, and neighbours, there was a social housing provider that provided homes and support to those in need. The organisation, overseen by dedicated board members and an executive team was once a beacon of trust, care, and commitment. However, over time, the trust/reputation that residents placed in the organisation and the sector as a whole began to fade. Missteps, lack of communication, pandemic legacy and unfulfilled maintenance led to a growing divide between the housing organisation and its residents.

After reading a recent Housing Ombudsman report, one board member, Kate, recognised the gravity of the situation and understood that regaining the trust of their tenants was critical to their organisation’s future. She set out on a mission to restore trust in her organisation and the sector, and this is Kate’s story:

Kate began by recognising the problem at hand: their residents’ loss of trust. She recognised that this was a problem not only for her organisation but for the sector as a whole. She took it upon herself to investigate and comprehend the factors that contributed to the loss of trust, and she began to devise a strategy to restore it. She recognised that the organisation and the sector would continue to suffer unless this fundamental issue was addressed.


To raise awareness, Kate took several steps:

  • Presenting Data: Kate collected data and statistics about the declining trust in the social housing sector, both in her organisation and on a national scale based on the 2022 regulators’ Social Housing Quality Programme: Residents Survey Report and the recent “Better Social Housing Review “ She prepared reports and presentations that highlighted the consequences of low trust levels, such as increased tenant turnover, reduced satisfaction, and a negative impact on the organisation’s reputation.
  • Identifying Root Causes: Kate initiated discussions among board members and key stakeholders to identify the root causes of the trust deficit. This process involved analysing past decisions and actions that may have contributed to the loss of trust, such as poor communication, unfulfilled promises, and lack of tenant involvement in decision-making.
  • Sharing Personal Stories: She encouraged board members and employees to share their own experiences and observations related to trust in the organisation. By giving a voice to those who had witnessed the decline in trust firsthand, she hoped to create a more profound understanding of the issue and foster empathy among her colleagues.
  • Highlighting the Impact on Tenants: Kate emphasised the importance of understanding how the lack of trust was affecting their residents. She shared stories of tenants who had lost faith in the organisation, illustrating the emotional and psychological toll it had taken on them. This helped to humanise the issue and make it more relatable for the board members.
  • Benchmarking against Best Practices: She studied other social housing organisations and sectors that had successfully maintained or rebuilt trust with their stakeholders. For example, she found that Ryanair, once synonymous with terrible customer service, has emerged as one of the most trusted post-Covid airlines. Were the management recognised that the first step in trust-building: is “actually delivering on your promises” and “doing what you said you would do”. She presented these examples to the board, highlighting the strategies they used and the positive outcomes that resulted from their efforts.

Kate then went on to organise workshops and seminars for other board members to learn about the importance of trust and reputation to pique their interest and involve them in her mission. She invited experts and speakers to share their perspectives and experiences, ensuring that the topic of trust was at the forefront of their discussions.

She recognised the importance of instilling a strong desire for change in her fellow board members and the organisation as a whole. She emphasised the importance of restoring trust/reputation, demonstrating the potential for positive transformation, and fostering a shared vision of a thriving community.

Desire for Change

To cultivate a desire for change, Kate took the following steps:

  • Emphasising the Benefits: She presented the numerous advantages of rebuilding trust with their residents, such as increased tenant satisfaction, reduced turnover, improved reputation, and a stronger sense of community. She stressed that these benefits would lead to a more successful and sustainable organisation, making it more appealing to stakeholders, partners, and potential residents.
  • Showcasing Success Stories: Emma shared case studies of other social housing organisations that had successfully restored trust with their residents. These examples demonstrated the tangible results that could be achieved through proactive efforts to rebuild trust, such as improved tenant relations, increased engagement, and a more positive public perception.
  • Creating a Shared Vision: She engaged her fellow board members in envisioning a future where the organisation was highly regarded for its transparency, accountability, and commitment to its residents. She encouraged them to imagine the impact this would have on their community, inspiring a sense of hope and optimism for what could be achieved.
  • Addressing Fears and Objections: Kate acknowledged the challenges that the organisation would face in rebuilding trust and addressed any concerns or objections raised by her colleagues. By demonstrating that these challenges could be overcome through a dedicated and collaborative effort, she built confidence in the organisation’s ability to succeed.
  • Inspiring Commitment: She encouraged her fellow board members to take personal responsibility for restoring trust and to be accountable for the organisation’s progress. She invited them to commit to change, fostering a sense of ownership and unity in their collective mission to rebuild trust with their residents.


With a renewed sense of purpose and commitment, Kate led the board in implementing a series of actions to rebuild trust with their residents which were:

  • Transparency: She encouraged the organisation to be more open and honest about their decisions and actions, sharing regular updates with residents and inviting them to participate in decision-making processes.
  • Accountability: Kate and her fellow board members set clear goals for improvement and held themselves accountable for achieving them. They implemented performance measures to track progress and ensure they were meeting the needs of their residents.
  • Communication: She made communication a top priority, ensuring that residents were informed about the organisation’s activities and progress. She also encouraged open dialogue, allowing residents to voice their concerns and provide valuable feedback.
  • Community engagement: Kate organised events and initiatives to bring the organisation and residents closer together, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.

Over time, the efforts of Kate and her fellow board members began to pay off. Trust between her organisation and its residents slowly but surely started to rebuild. With each step forward, the community grew more trusting, more vibrant, and hopeful for a brighter future.

Kate is now helping and guiding other neighbouring boards and has recently been invited to run a webinar for the NHF on the topic.

By acknowledging the loss of trust, creating interest and desire for change, and taking action through transparency, accountability, communication, and community engagement, we social housing board members can work together to rebuild trust with our tenants and create a thriving, trusting, and supportive community once more.

If you would like to discuss how you might use this approach or facilitate a discussion in your own organisation then drop us a line happy to help.

If you are a Kate then you might want to check out this article that inspired me, “Trust how to measure it and why it matters for business”

Also try Dr John Blakey, global CEO coach and founder of The Trusted Executive, who is a trust expert

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