Improving life for housing association residents with the community rights

Posted on the 17th November 2016

Every one of us values the community in which we live, regardless of whether we own or rent the place we call home. Housing associations play a vital role in shaping the areas where you provide much needed housing.

Most housing associations have tenant involvement strategies embedded in their delivery model. Most of you will know about the ‘Right to Manage’, which enables social housing tenants to influence and manage how their housing services are delivered.

Improving the way housing is managed is just one of the ways in which residents and housing associations can work in partnership to make a difference in their local communities. But did you know that there are other powers, called the community rights, which can help support your resident engagement work?

Protecting community assets

Many community assets, such as community centres, parks or facilities for children, as well as privately owned facilities such as pubs and shops, are invaluable for community wellbeing. Unfortunately some are under threat of closure.

The Community Right to Bid can help to protect vital community assets. Residents can nominate any local building or land that adds to the wellbeing of the community to be put on a list of Assets of Community Value by the Local Authority. If the asset is then put up for sale, the residents can ‘pause’ the sale for six months to raise funds to bid to buy it.

Community shares

One of the greatest obstacles to communities taking on assets, bidding to run services or fund building projects is access to finance. Community Shares can help! Residents can invest in local projects so that, as well as being customers; they would become investors in a much-valued asset in their local area.

Residents in Brighton campaigned successfully for The Bevy pub to re-open when under threat of permanent closure. Over 700 people formed a co-operative, bought community shares and are now proud owners of their pub – the most of any co-operatively owned pub in the country. The Bevy is the first community-owned pub on a housing estate in Britain, safeguarding a much loved community asset in the heart of the community.

Community Shares are just one of the ways in which community groups can raise finance. Other ways include crowdfunding platforms that assist groups in pitching their ideas online to attract donations and social finance organisations that offer repayable finance to projects that provide a social benefit. More information on how to raise finance can be found here.

Community Asset Transfer

Many assets such as community centres and meeting spaces are owned and managed by housing associations. Some housing providers are now starting to think strategically about the role their assets can play in improving the wellbeing of local residents and ensuring that these community hubs remain sustainable in the longer term.

Community Asset Transfer involves the transfer of ownership and/or management of land or buildings from a statutory body such as a housing association to a community based organisation or group. Affinity Sutton have looked at how they can maximise their asset portfolio whilst helping residents put down roots in their local community, and developed a toolkit for housing providers on Community Asset Transfer.

 

Find out more about community asset ownership and management

Green Spaces

Housing Associations also play a key role in improving the health and well being of their residents by providing access to quality green space.

Did you know that providers of social housing are now eligible to apply for the Green Flag Award, an internationally recognised accreditation and the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces across the country? Award judging by green space experts is a positive experience that provides site managers and communities with an independent ‘health check’ of the quality and management of their green space. Not only does achieving the Award demonstrate a commitment to delivering quality green space for your residents, it can also help to bring you and your communities together and generate positive publicity.

CityWest Homes and the Bournville Village Trust have both benefited from achieving Green Flag status on their estates, with national recognition for their organisation and an increase in resident satisfaction with the place they call home.

Find out more about the Green Flag Award

Improving Services

Communities across England are working with service providers, local authorities, town councils, housing associations, police, NHS, voluntary and community groups and businesses to come together to try to improve local service delivery through partnership working and co-production. This is putting them at the heart of decision making and revolutionising the way neighbourhoods work. Many are using the Our Place  approach to find solutions to local problems. Cost benefit analyses of this work is producing compelling evidence for the financial benefits of delivering services at a neighbourhood level.

In North Huyton in Merseyside, the community (working in partnership with Knowsley Housing Trust and the local Council) have developed a model for revitalising troubled housing estates. Empty and derelict properties had long been a burden and source of frustration for people living on the estates, and through this project the local community brought properties back into use, whilst helping to address local homelessness and providing young people with skills.

Find out more about transforming local services

Neighbourhood Planning

Provision of affordable and other housing is a key issue for local people.

Communities can now have a direct say in the way their neighbourhood or estate develops in the future by creating a Neighbourhood Plan. Neighbourhood planning enables local communities to shape the places where they live and work. Your residents, as part of the local community, can decide where new homes, shops and offices will go and what they should look like, as well as protecting valued green space and revitalising the local high street. They can develop planning policies that reflect their priorities and have real legal weight in the planning system. Housing associations, as providers of affordable housing, are key players in the planning development process and it is important that you are part of the conversation.

In Heathfield Park, a deprived inner city area of Wolverhampton, residents from Heath Town and New Park Village estates came together with other local residents to create a neighbourhood plan for the area. It focuses on regenerating their neighbourhood, for example by improving the quality of the public spaces, designing out crime, and providing for more homes to be built.

Over 1,800 communities have started neighbourhood planning in their area.

Find out more about Neighbourhood Planning

Networks

If your residents are active in the local area, or want to get more involved, they can join the My Community Forum to chat to experts and connect with others who are passionate about their community. It also gives you access to free events and online training.

Community Rights are going from strength to strength, with more than 3,000 buildings, green spaces and other much loved local assets protected. Thousands of people in communities across the country are using their rights to make positive changes in their neighbourhoods. Use our interactive map to find out about community rights around the country.

by Tom Quinlan, DCLG

Join the conversation on the My Community Forum

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