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The Open Doors project – what's it all about?

by Sarah Vining, Open Doors Project Manager

Sarah will be delivering a workshop on the Open Doors project at the Homelessness Symposium on Thursday 12 October. Writing for our blog, she explains the objectives of the project and how it operates.

Open Doors is a brand new Big Lottery funded project in partnership between Tai Pawb and the Residential Landlords Association. It aims to engage private rented sector tenants and landlords in reducing inequality and discrimination in the sector. Our team consists of two staff: the Project Manager (me!) and Project Officer Nazia Azad; we've been in post since the end of July.

Open Doors will be supporting and advising tenants to raise awareness of key rights, responsibilities and solutions amongst private tenants from diverse groups, such as migrants, LGBT or disabled tenants, who are at greater risk of experiencing specific tenancy issues. At the same time, with help from the RLA, we will work with private landlords and letting agents to improve their capacity to deal with issues related to equality and diversity. We want to educate, train and support landlords so that they feel well informed on equalities issues, and know how to best help their tenants if a problem does arise.

At a time when more and more people are turning to the private rented sector for accommodation (CIH Cymru suggest that if current trends continue, the private rented sector will become the second most used accommodation type, after home ownership; it is anticipated to reach 20% of the total stock by 2020) and as local authorities are able to fully discharge their housing duty through the offer of suitable private rented sector accommodation, it is more important than ever to ensure that landlords and tenants have the knowledge, skills and support that they need to make the market as fair and accessible as possible for everyone.

Our project has four main outcomes:

  • Private rented tenants are empowered through an increased awareness of their rights and responsibilities and have an increased capacity to support themselves
  • Local authorities and third sector organisations are better able to engage with private rented sector landlords and tenants
  • Landlords feel more confident, supported and able to let to a more diverse and vulnerable range of tenants
  • Landlords are given the knowledge and skills to comply with equality legislation and as a result, instances of discrimination against vulnerable private rented sector tenants are reduced

The project was officially launched last week at a series of events across the three local authorities where we will be working (Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan). After the initial couple of months of set-up, it was great to get out into the community and talk about the project and what we want to achieve.

We met and spoke with a huge variety of people: tenants, landlords and interested members of the public, and the stories they shared with us about their experiences of the sector were really moving. There was one individual with mental health issues who told us that the ongoing harassment they were experiencing from their landlord had got so bad, they were considering going back to sleeping in their car.

We met a fantastic landlord in Barry who couldn't believe that tenants were sometimes discriminated against because of their protected characteristics: to quote her: "I don't care if you're gay, straight, transgender, whatever – as long as you pay your rent on time, what's it to me?"

Our hope is that if landlords feel more confident and supported with the equality legislation then they will be willing to let to a more diverse group of tenants; and equally, if tenants feel empowered and are more aware of their rights and responsibilities, then they will be more confident in accessing the PRS and viewing it as a viable housing option.

If you're attending Cymorth Cymru's Homelessness Symposium next week then you'll have the chance to hear all about Open Doors as I am giving a presentation about the project – please come and say hello if you're interested or want to find out more. We are keen to engage with other organisations in the sector and look for opportunities to work together. If you're not able to attend, you can get in touch with us at opendoors@taipawb.org or on our social media channels: @OpenDoorsTP on Twitter or OpenDoorsTP on Facebook.

Notes:

1. Tai Pawb is the leading national expert organisation promoting equality and diversity in housing in Wales. They influence policy, support organisations and raise awareness of equality and diversity issues and solutions. Tai Pawb has a membership of over 70 organisations from across the social housing, third sector and other housing and equality organisations in Wales.
2. Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is the leading voice for landlords in England and Wales. They are the UK's first national landlord association. Owned by members, they represent over 29,000 landlords UK wide with a combined portfolio of more than quarter of a million properties.
3. The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects. It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Every year it invests over £650 million and awards around 12,000 grants across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

 

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© Cymorth Cymru 2022
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774