Few people under 35 and no under 18s are getting involved with the council’s housing teams, according to research by Brighton and Hove City Council’s community engagement team.
The officials who support communities living on housing estates want to hear a wider range of voices from residents who are working with the council to improve housing services.
A draft version of the council tenant and leaseholder engagement strategy went before “virtual” meetings of the four housing area panels, made up of tenant and leaseholder representatives as well as councillors.
Residents’ representatives heard how 90 per cent of people taking an active role on estates were over 50 yet more than a third of tenants were under 50.
As well as a shortage of young people, there are few if any housing tenants from ethnic minority groups taking an active role, despite making up 10 per cent of people living in council housing.
Action proposed to reach more people include the community engagement team door knocking, carrying out surveys, supporting arts, cultural and fun days or events, as well as developing more social media and online groups.
Community engagement officer Keely McDonald said that one of the areas where more people could get involved was with the estate development budget.
This budget allows residents to bid for money to improve council housing department-owned land or community rooms in their area.
Examples in east Brighton include installing new pathways on the Craven Vale Estate and installing picnic tables and benches in Woodingdean.
She said that the budget was supposed to empower residents but only a small percentage of tenants and leaseholders were making use of it and submitting bids.
As well as physical projects, the budget could – for example – be used to pay for a baby and toddler group, she said, as one of the aims was to increase the use of community rooms.
Ms McDonald said: “We want to make sure there are fun activities and a diverse range of opportunities for people to be involved.
“We want an improved social media presence, both with the ommunity engagement team and the groups themselves to have their own social media presence.”
Conservative councillor Dee Simson questioned the effectiveness of community engagement.
She said: “We’ve been around the block so many times with community engagement and involving people, new people. It just doesn’t seem to work.
“I don’t see anything new that would make a difference but I would love to think it would.”
Another Conservative councillor Mary Mears said that she did not like to say that she had heard it all before but she had seen many presentations on community engagement.
She said: “The only way this will ever work is bottom up. You can’t tell tenants what you’re going to do.
“You have to listen to tenants as to how they want to be engaged and how they want to be involved. If it’s top down, it never actually works.”
Ms McDonald said that the team was being proactive by working with community groups and the plan was created in consultation with residents.
Labour councillor Gill Williams said that a leaseholders’ forum last year worked well and she hoped that a virtual meeting would work in the same way.
She also wanted to see tenants and leaseholders involved in the procurement process as people were frequently concerned about the cost of works.
Councillor Williams said: “We have had some successes already and we can learn a lot and build from them.
“We’ve got some great things going on with the community on the Bristol Estate.
“We have a fantastic Robert Lodge kitchen, which is moving up to Kingfisher and going to carry on feeding East Brighton with 140 meals a day.
“We have a community garden which is doing really well. I’m seeing initiatives that have come from residents, and we have assisted them.”
The council’s Housing Committee will discuss the community engagement plans when it meets in the new year.
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