Housing associations and the Big Society: lessons from Scotland's community housing sector

Kim McKee

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    Abstract

    Funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland this qualitative study explored the relevance of the Big Society for housing policy in Scotland, through a focus on Community-Controlled Housing Associations (CCHAs) and their potential to act as community anchor organisations. Drawing on expert interviews it identified 5 key findings:

    • Although sceptical of the relevance of the Big Society, interviewees were positive about the potential of housing associations to act as community anchor organisations; with many expressing that they already fulfilled this role. This suggests there is much the Big Society agenda in England can learn from the Scottish experience, as illustrated by the seven case study profiles.

    • Key strengths of CCHAs, which made them ideal anchor organisations, were identified as: community governance structures and being embedded in the local community; housing assets and independent revenue streams; ability to mobilise cross-sector partnerships; strength of relationship with tenants and their credibility in the local community.

    • A number of challenges and barriers to developing associations’ potential as anchor organisations were however also articulated: funding constraints; lack of institutional support from within government (at both the local and national level); and the regulation of social housing.

    • The reality of doing housing in ‘hard times’ meant associations were being forced to think about their future role. Embracing the community anchor role was identified by some as one avenue of ‘diversification’ that would allow CCHAs to remain true to their core values and ethos. The need for further support from within government, in addition to self-reflection, was also underlined.

    • There remained scepticism about why associations needed to adopt a new label for what they did, and also concerns about the level of expectation placed on them by government. This was linked to an awareness of the limits of area-based approaches to addressing entrenched and persistent structural inequalities.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    Number of pages44
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2012

    Keywords

    • Housing policy
    • Regeneration
    • Social housing
    • Scotland
    • Community anchors
    • Big society
    • Place
    • Governance

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