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Acting on Localism: The role of housing associations in driving a community agenda

Publication Details

A new ResPublica report in association with Chester and District Housing Trust

To coincide with the one year anniversary of the Localism Act, the latest report from ResPublica, Acting on Localism: The role of housing associations in driving a community agenda, examines the role of housing associations as actors and catalysts for a vibrant and transformative localism. It warns that the localism agenda will fail unless the disconnect between government and local institutions such as housing associations is overcome.

The publication, supported by Chester and District Housing Trust, argues that despite the lack of resources for local authorities and support for voluntary groups, government can still deliver on the localism agenda by harnessing housing associations to meet local needs.

The featured case studies demonstrate that certain housing associations are already performing this crucial role, by acting as vital capacity-builders and vehicles for community ambition. Whilst many communities by themselves do not have the resources to take up the opportunities created by the Localism Act – such as community rights, budgetary challenge and neighbourhood planning powers – housing associations are often in a good position to help them do so.

Written by ResPublica Research Associates, Pete Duncan and Sally Thomas, the report argues that housing associations should integrate this social role into their core business model, and regularly report on their social impact in delivering services, supporting local organisations and enabling community ownership. Tenants and the wider community should be given a new ‘right to challenge’ to ensure housing associations fulfill their social role.

The report concludes by suggesting concrete steps to be taken by both housing associations and the Government. Recommendations include:
Government to extend the provisions of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 to require housing associations to report on their social role.

  • Government to extend the Tenant Empowerment Programme to include non-tenants so that housing associations are accountable to the wider community.
  • Government to remove barriers to community ownership of partnership companies that work at a local level.
  • Government to remove barriers to market entry for community-based public service partnerships to enable them to be established before being subject to full competition.
  • Housing associations to assist smaller civil society organisations to ‘scale up’ and form consortia to enable them to bid more effectively for contracts to deliver public services.
  • Housing associations to train their in-house commissioning teams in how they could most effectively procure services that will deliver the most social value for their communities.
  • Housing associations, in partnership with the local authority and other asset holders, to compile an asset register for each locality where they have concentrated stock, revealing to nearby communities any opportunity for potential community ownership and control.
  • Sally Thomas

    Research Associate

    Sally Thomas is Director of Social Regeneration Consultants (SRC), specialising in the social and community aspects of successful communities and neighbourhoods. She has written a number of books for the Chartered Institute of Housing, government departments, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation...

    Sally Thomas
  • Pete Duncan

    Research Associate

    Pete is a Director at Social Regeneration Consultants, which he set up in 1993. He has spent nearly all his career working in the field of community-led regeneration and neighbourhood planning, especially in our more deprived areas. He was a...

    Pete Duncan