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February 27, 2008

Scottish Housing Green Paper attracts English big guns

Concern is being expressed that the participation of residents in community controlled housing associations (a proud Scottish tradition) will be undermined by recent moves from giant English associations to colonise Scottish estates


“Monolithic” housing associations from south of the border are threatening the existence of their locally based counterparts in Scotland it has been claimed.

Large associations based in England are setting up offices in Scotland to capitalize on the government’s Firm Foundations policy, which aims to boost the amount of affordable new builds in Scotland from 25,000 a year to 35,000.

According to an influential housing publication, at least six major English associations are hoping to set up bases or expand in Scotland.

Sunderland-based Gentoo has opened an office in Glasgow, while Circle Anglia has earmarked Scotland as a growth area.

Others such as Sanctuary and Places for People have had a presence in Scotland for several years.

But Scottish housing associations claim their asset -rich counterparts in England are driven mainly by expansion.

They claim the English model of housing associations is radically different and that tenant participation would all but cease.

Fraser Stewart heads the New Gorbals Housing Association. He said: “Tenants want local landlords they can trust and hold to account.

“There is nothing which large English housing associations can do which is not already being done better by community- based associations in Glasgow.”

Under the government’s Firm Foundations scheme only one housing association developer will be appointed as the lead developer in a particular area.

The West of Scotland Housing Association claims the proposal created the risk of the development programme in Scotland being undertaken by a handful of English associations.

Steven Strang of Elderslie Housing said tenants would not be happy with what amounted to an absent landlord. “The English model is very different,” he said, “So I don’t quite know what kind of additional value they would bring to the city. Housing Associations are charities and founded on not-for-profit principles.

We would fear that would be eroded if these kinds of housing associations settled north of the border, intent primarily on expansion,”

But Colin Rae, of Places for People, said: “We are extremely well-placed to offer something that is not being offered in the Scottish market,”