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November 15, 2022

Place Associations

The community based housing movement, mostly operating in and around Glasgow, is something of a paradox. Constantly producing great outcomes for its tenants and demonstrating beyond question the ability of communities to run a highly complex public service such as housing, at the same time they never quite manage to convince the powers that be, and specifically the Housing Regulator, that locally run, small scale housing providers should be the future of social housing. So it was particularly gratifying for them to see the independent Glasgow Place Commission give them such a ringing endorsement

Scottish Housing News

The report of the Glasgow Place Commission has been warmly welcomed by the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) which said it is keen to highlight that in recommending the establishment of ‘Place Associations’, the report cites the city’s community-based housing associations as “one of Glasgow’s pre-eminent success stories”.

Published last month, the report says that community-based housing associations (CBHAs) are close to the people they serve, with tenants represented on their boards, and with a proven inheritance of good governance. But overall, it argues, Glasgow’s approach to placemaking has been patchy and unfocused and that the city “is not good enough at setting out the big picture or at mobilising the knowledge, skills and energy of communities”.

The report suggests that a ‘Glasgow Place Transfer’ could be considered, building on the outcomes from the housing stock transfer. A key recommendation is the development of a governance proposition for ‘Glasgow Place Associations’.

A further recommendation is to “examine the extent of stranded assets: property, buildings and land and positive public ‘goods’ where local authority resources are strained to the point that they can no longer be maintained properly and consider how these could be assembled into a place stock transfer with full public engagement”.

GWSF director David Bookbinder said: “This report is hugely welcome. The way in which community based housing associations have transformed so many of Glasgow’s communities sometimes seems to be overlooked or taken for granted, with few official documents and strategies acknowledging it. This report not only recognises it but says it’s a model that should be built on.

“We’ll be keen to be involved in discussions over whether new-style Place Associations would be an entirely new organisation or whether there could be scope in some areas for CBHAs to effectively take on the role with appropriate funding and other support.

“We think that one of the benefits the report could lead to is a more proactive strategy to promote the value of CBHAs and to emphasise the importance of preserving – wherever possible – the independence of any associations which may face temporary problems.

“When a CBHA is taken over by a larger regional or national housing association, its assets are removed from the community, and the anchor role that the CBHA had is also lost forever.

“Local housing associations in the city will keep their local offices open and carry on delivering with and for their communities – both as great landlords and through their community regeneration work. But we would be delighted to engage with Glasgow City Council to explore how we might further support the Place Commission’s ambitions. Terminology like ‘community empowerment’ came into use not so long ago but it’s been part of the DNA of our members for decades.”