TENANTS with Oxfordshire’s biggest housing association are to be given control over how the organisation runs.

Soha Housing, based in Didcot and with control of more than 6,400 homes across the county, has become one of only a handful of similar organisations to change its company status to become a mutual.

Using a model similar to department store John Lewis, people who live in Soha properties can now become shareholders of their own housing association, entitling them to a vote on some of the most important company decisions.

A share in Soha costs £1 and holding it gives the member significant influence.

They will be able to vote in elections for Soha’s board and on the rules governing the housing association.

Shareholders will not get a dividend but will be consulted on big potential decisions, including mergers.

They may also be given a say on where and when the company should build new developments in future.

A members’ panel will be established at the company’s first AGM as a mutual in September.

Soha spokesman David Reynolds said: “We have always encouraged tenants to get involved and many already do a lot to influence the organisation.

“We now want to open up further the opportunities for every tenant, shared owner and leaseholder to influence the decisions that directly affect them.

“Mutualisation aims to give every member a say in shaping their future.”

He added: “Soha builds houses but, more importantly, it builds homes and communities.

“Through membership tenants can have more say and influence in the future of their own homes.

“They’ll be able to directly influence major organisational changes, appoint board members and take ownership of Soha’s purpose and values.”

As part of the initiative, tenants have been offered training in leadership and management, with a view to them joining the company’s board as full members.

Six have already studied for a qualification from the Institute of Leadership and Management, learning about financial management, decision-making and communications.

One tenant, Victoria Dingle, who lives in South Oxfordshire, is now set to become a board member.

She said: “The course has helped me improve my knowledge on how social housing organisations work, business improvement, and a whole range of other transferable skills.

“I want to ensure the focus is still on Soha’s core services and its commitment to the community I live in.”