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December 2, 2009

Community based housing associations under pressure

The phenomenal achievements of Scotland’s community based housing associations should be enough to convince anyone of the merits of community led regeneration.  But the current Housing Bill contains worrying signs that Govt thinking is moving in a different direction.  In response, a new initiative in support of the community based housing movement is about to emerge.

Community controlled housing associations have been one of Scotland’s housing and regeneration success stories in the last four decades.
The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, EVH and SHARE have come together to look at how they respond to the many challenges facing the sector, including housing cooperatives, community controlled and community based housing associations in Scotland.
The Scottish Housing Regulator’s recent pronouncements in their publication “Shaping up for Improvement” appear confused and lack clarity. You could interpret their emphasis on criticizing the abilities of local committee members, the need to consider mergers and the need for greater efficiency to be a direct attack on this model. However it also says that there are excellent community controlled housing associations.
The Draft of the forthcoming Housing Scotland Bill appeared more interested in bringing forward new private sector models for provision and management than in promoting the existing successful Scottish community-based  model. By comparison it would appear that down south they are now rediscovering the benefits of community empowerment, and community well-being as objectives of housing and regeneration policy and regulation.
Faced with these development s combined with the proposed massive reduction in public spending for new Housing in 2010 and the apparent policy vacuum at a strategic level ever since the demise of Communities Scotland, we have jointly agreed that there must be a robust policy response from all three organisations.
As a result we have agreed to work closely together and with others, including Local People Leading, to jointly promote the interests of community controlled housing organisations. We will defend and promote the principles of community housing in Scotland which include:-

  • The retention and promotion of local control and involvement in strategic and significant decisions affecting local communities
  • The importance of owning local assets and revenue generation in relation to financial sustainability and genuine community empowerment
  • The ability to appoint and direct local staff in the interests of the local community
  • The ability to make decisions and work outwith the confines of a strict housing role to create popular, successful and sustainable local communities

Our joint work will involve as a first step sharing information and meeting regularly to discuss and respond to the key issues we all believe can support the community controlled housing sector. It is our aim that it should not only continue to provide high quality housing services that are accountable to and controlled by local communities, but can also play an important and growing role in helping Scotland recover from the current economic crisis.

EVH and SHARE have members who are not community controlled and nothing in this agreement will be to the detriment of service to them but merely reflects the current environment.