Social housing leaders debate the future for community investment

17/02/2011

Findings from ‘Together for Communities’ pilot projects may help to shape new partnership models.

London, 17 February 2011 – The future role of social housing providers in enabling and supporting community-run projects comes under the spotlight at a meeting of housing association chief executives this week.

The round table discussion in London has been organised by HACT, the housing action charity, to provide leaders of 12 social housing providers from around the country with an opportunity to look critically at the future for community investment in the current climate of public sector cuts and the Big Society vision.

A key focus for the discussion will be the preliminary results of HACT’s ‘Together for Communities’ projects, which are being held up as innovative examples of the way housing associations may be able to more effectively partner with community–run projects, as suggested by David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’.

The 12 pilot projects from around the country have been awarded £279,000 in grants ranging from £5,000 to £30,000 from the Communitybuilders Fund, to help demonstrate the positive impact that partnerships with social housing providers can have on building resilient and confident local communities.

They include a community group in Bristol whose members are working with a housing association to help bring together new tenants and longer established residents in a neighbourhood programme. Another example is a social enterprise in Huddersfield that is working together with an Arms Length Management Organisation to tackle the blight of empty properties in the area.

The awards were announced by the Adventure Capital Fund (ACF), the parent charity of The Social Investment Business, and by HACT, the housing action charity, who have teamed up to create ‘Together for Communities’.

Representatives from The Department for Communities and Local Government Big Society Unit and the National Housing Federation will also be present at the meeting, which will be chaired by Tom Murtha, HACT Chair and Chief Executive of Midland Heart.

It will include contributions from Andrew Purkis, former Charity Commissioner. Mr Purkis’s report last year, Housing Associations in England and the Future of Voluntary Organisations, sparked considerable debate about the role of housing associations and whether they have neglected their status as independent charities in favour of business concerns and government influence.

HACT Director Heather Petch said: “Together for Communities is all about developing the potential of new and existing partnerships to deliver lasting, sustainable change at a local level. These ‘community anchors’, as we call them, take many forms but they usually involve a neighbourhood action programme that helps them build a secure asset base.

“Our aim is to help forge strong partnerships between these community anchors and local social housing organisations, who are also working to achieve neighbourhood renewal. We want to see how these partnership models can enable them to address problems on their doorstep more effectively, whether they arise from drug misuse, crime and vandalism or unemployment, ill health and low educational achievement.

“Initiatives such as this are exactly what the Government is encouraging – where people feel they have the freedom and power to get together to tackle local problems in the most appropriate way.

Ms Petch added: “But it’s not about just making things work in isolation. The project is gathering, interpreting and disseminating the learning from these initiatives at a national level, through ‘round table’ discussions such as this and through HACT’s national network of social housing providers.

Communitybuilders Director Caroline Forster said: “We are delighted to be supporting the ‘Together for Communities’ initiative. The partnerships formed by the community organisations involved with local social housing organisations will enable them to do more of what they originally set out to do – help the most vulnerable in their communities. We look forward to learning from their experiences.”

Notes for editors

1. About ‘Together for Communities’:

HACT’s project ‘Together for Communities’, is funding 12 partnerships between housing providers and community led groups to demonstrate the bigger impact that they can have by working together. Learning will be shared more widely to sow the seeds for similar projects nationwide. In tough economic times such joint work is critical, especially in places where deprivation is in danger of getting worse.

Details of the 12 grant aided partnerships:

Community Anchor Housing Organisation Location
Ford Park Community Group Impact HA Cumbria
Keystone DT Flagship Housing Group Thetford
Balsall Heath Forum Moseley & District HA Birmingham
Upper Horfield CT Bristol Community Housing Bristol
Clayton Brook Community Places for People Chorley
Roots Project Contour Housing Bolton
Fresh Horizons Kirklees N’hood Housing Huddersfield
John Scurr CA Newlon HT Tower Hamlets
Hattersley CA Peak Valley (Contour Housing) Hyde: Manchester
Moat House CT Whitefriars Coventry
GIPSIL East North East Leeds ALMO Leeds
The Ferry Project Luminus HA Wisbech

2. For further info contact:
Catherine Callens, HACT Communications Manager: Catherine.Callens@hact.org.uk
John Coburn, HACT Network Support Officer: John.Coburn@hact.org.uk
Tel: 020 7247 7800

For further information in Communitybuilders or interviews, please contact The Social Investment Business press office:
Liz Banks – 0207 842 7726/ 07809 504072 liz.banks@socialinvestmentbusiness.org
Nicola Jones – 0207 842 7755 nicola.jones@socialinvestmentbusiness.org

3. About HACT:
HACT is a national charity that exists to improve the wellbeing and living conditions of poor and marginalised people. Our projects deliver lasting change, by harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of local people, housing providers and other organisations. We provide the expertise and the resources to make change a reality. We invest in work that benefits local people but has national resonance and influences national housing policy.

4. About Community Builders:

The Communitybuilders Fund provides loans, grants and business support to multi-purpose, inclusive, community-led organisations (sometimes known as Community Anchors).
Communitybuilders is a joint programme between Communities and Local Government and the Office for Civil Society. It is led by the Adventure Capital Fund and supported by the Social Investment Business and the Community Alliance – comprising the Development Trusts Association, BASSAC and Community Matters. Click here for further info.