Opinion: the specialists at the heart of neighbourhoods
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
A new report by g320 - the representative body for smaller housing associations across London - concluded that smaller housing associations are vital to tackling the housing crisis in London.
Here Brian Simpson (pictured), chief executive of Wirral Partnership Homes, argues that the same case applies across the country.
The G320 report, published on 21st January, makes a case for larger housing associations to partner with smaller associations of 1,000 homes or less, in order to support cash flow and act as a guarantor for riskier activities. It also suggests that the regulator considers creating a framework that forces larger associations to co-operate, should they fail to engage voluntarily.
Whilst being unique to London the views and recommendations of the report do highlight interesting and contemporary concerns for the housing sector in general. Gone are the days when housing associations purely focused on the provision of homes in isolation of other agencies’ work in an area. Now we must critically think about how we can work alongside one another in order to deliver projects which make an effective impact on the community as a whole.
A partnership will only be truly successful if entered in to voluntarily and I have concerns that the creation of a framework forcing two parties to work with one another could cause issues for both parties. A larger association may feel that they are being made to “bank-roll” a smaller association’s projects and this does not present any obvious benefits to either party, the larger association’s finances are put at risk and the smaller association loses autonomy, creating an unequal partnership.
In order to work, a partnership must benefit both parties, with tangible results and a reduction in risk to both partners. In this instance, associations can work together to share expertise, best practice and services, whilst creating something which adheres to the ethos of both associations.
WPH has worked in partnership with other smaller associations and these have worked as both parties have both identified a need which can be met and a clear agreement from the start. Examples include providing a repairs service; providing an out-of-hours call handling service; providing “move on” accommodation for a special needs association and including tenants from other landlords in a digital inclusion scheme.