Monday, January 10, 2011

Talking about the future – what about small housing associations?

This week’s Inside Housing carries a roundtable discussion on What’s on the cards for 2011. It brings together figures from the world of social housing and its hinterland to discuss the threats and opportunities of the next 12 months.

The discussion was quite upbeat. Maybe the flexibility of the new Affordable Rent at 80% of market levels will ensure new development despite the huge reductions in public finance.

What struck me was who at the table. Local authorities and large housing associations were well-represented. Small housing associations were not there. Liverpool Mutual Homes and City West Housing Trust have around 15,000 – other soothsayers in the article many more.

The small associations will struggle to develop in the future – does that mean decline? The roundtable participants believe that associations will have to be more commercially driven. That is not necessarily something that small housing associations are well prepared to do with their limited resources and voluntary ethos.
One participant suggested: “‘Voluntary boards are part of the past now”.

Small associations – those with a few hundred or, even, a thousand or so homes - will have to do some serious thinking. Working together and with others will be vital for the associations who like to call themselves as “the smalls”.

It would be ironic if local organisations based on a voluntary ethic found themselves evicted from a future of localism and Big Society.

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