Kate Davies is Chief Executive of the Notting Hill Housing Trust. Kate has also been a Council housing director and has worked with Councillors from all parties in London and the south east. She offers some tips on how Councils should engage with Housing Associations.
Many Councillors and MPs, of all parties, often criticise Housing Associations, and say they are unaccountable, terrible at delivering services or more interested in making money than in helping the homeless.
And many Associations will counter that over the past 40 years we have been turned from independent charities, with lots of vim and vigour, into bodies that are little more than an agent for national and local government.
In my view HAs and councils are very similar bodies. Both are trying to deliver centrally driven targets for new homes, decent homes, homeless acceptances and length of time in temporary accommodation. We build homes to a size and shape specified by government, house the people the government determines must get priority, and run our services in a way that is fixed by the Audit Commission. Not much room for innovation, entrepreneurship or responsiveness to the variety of desires and wishes of our customers. Our staff soon become demoralised as they scurry around trying to make the estates cleaner and the tenants happier.
How could Councils get more out of associations? Here is my advice:
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