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March 25, 2015

Confusing messages

This week saw the launch a new initiative by our community controlled housing associations aimed at strengthening their links with the wider third sector and consolidating their role as community anchors.  Scottish Government was in attendance, praising the impact that these organisations have in Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.  And yet for some reason these same organisations are under constant pressure from the Housing Regulator to consider mergers and takeovers. Scale up or keep it local – you can’t have it both ways..




Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde (and formerly Chief Medical Officer for Scotland) contributed this forward to the publication :

 Still Transforming Local Communities

Sir Harry Burns There are over 160,000 people now living in affordable homes owned by members of GWSF

·         The 1,000 committee members control assets of over £7,000 million and employ over 2,000 staff

·         They are hugely trusted locally based organisations that have been transforming their communities for more than 40 years

For many years, I have been promoting the importance of asset based approaches and the health benefits that come from people having control over the decisions that affect their lives. Because of this, I am delighted to have been asked to write a foreword for this brochure produced by the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum, which represents 63 community controlled housing associations. CCHAs are voluntary organisations which operate in many of the areas of the West of Scotland where social and economic outcomes are poor.

 They are run by local people and work in discrete geographic areas providing and maintaining affordable housing and, more generally, improving the community and providing opportunities for local people. CCHAs are a real success story. For more than 40 years, local residents have been responsible for major building programmes, owning and maintaining significant housing and community assets, and taking strategic decisions about creating sustainable communities. Glasgow would look completely different were it not for the initial pioneers (the residents who challenged the wholescale destruction of communities and imagined a different way forward through the improvement of their neighbourhoods) and their successors, who have tirelessly sustained their approach.

 The landmark Victorian tenements in much of the inner city would not be here – and the streets that people ran and cycled through during the 2014 Commonwealth Games would have been decidedly less photogenic. Local residents in CCHAs took control of local assets long before we all started talking about asset based approaches, the Christie Commission, co-production and community empowerment. But there can be no doubt that they demonstrate the characteristics that we now aspire to in Scotland and have been doing this successfully since the early 1970s. This is a story that is well worth telling. And we can all learn from the powerful change that can come from giving residents the opportunity to take the important decisions about what happens in their area.