Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

May 2, 2012

Community housing is Scotland’s Big Society

When politicians think that they’ve stumbled across something new, as David Cameron appeared to do with his idea for the Big Society, it’s often met with a mix of scepticism and scorn on the part those who have been ‘doing it’ for years. The recent shift in emphasis in regeneration policy (and the forthcoming community empowerment bill) runs the risk of attracting a similar level of opprobrium from Scotland’s community housing sector. A new report out this week serves to reiterate the value of their contribution.


A copy of the project report can be downloaded here.

In recent years, politicians across the UK have talked of helping communities to help themselves. Scotland already has a rich and diverse voluntary sector, together with a strong policy record on community ownership.  In ‘Housing Associations and the Big Society: Lessons from Scotland’s community housing sector’, Dr Kim McKee suggests there is much the rest of the UK can learn from this experience. 

Research published today, funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, suggests community-controlled housing associations, led by local people, hold the key to successful community regeneration in Scotland’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. More than just landlords, these organisations are anchored in their communities, providing vital services in an era of reduced public spending. 

McKee of the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews said:

“Housing associations are key frontline agencies in Scotland’s low-income communities. They harness the talents and energy of local people and support grass-roots solutions to local problems. These organisations provide a strong vehicle to rethink public service delivery at the neighbourhood level and have an important social role in the communities that they serve, acting as catalysts for community development and regeneration. 

Despite these strengths, associations face a number of barriers in unlocking their potential, as changes to the funding and regulation of social housing in Scotland represent challenging obstacles to developing their wider role. Government support is vital to enable associations to flourish in their capacity as anchor organisations.”

A copy of the project report can be downloaded here. More information can also be obtained from the report author, Dr Kim McKee, Lecturer in Geography at the University of St Andrews.