This paper gives an account of the development and pioneering management practices of a community‐owned and managed agency, Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH), locating these in the context of continuing concerns and emerging aspirations over the role of social housing, with developing UK national policy and a proposed statutory “Right to Transfer” for tenants.
This report provides a narrative of the recent development of social housing policy development and the evolving practice of WECH. This is the essential historical and social policy background to a recent study into the health and well‐being benefits of empowerment through community ownership of social housing. This first paper refers to and discusses the wider implications of the data collected during the well‐being research and literature review, indicating that the population of the WECH estates experience a sense of belonging, and of being involved, which contrasts markedly with statistics for comparable populations in comparable areas of deprivation. Further analysis of the key findings of the original study will be published in Part two.
The benefits of more community‐owned services include the more efficient and holistic management of properties. Community‐based, resident‐controlled housing associations offer a secure foundation for building in additional services as part of the continued drive to devolve public services to the local level, including hosting of a substantial range of community services, for example the reintegration of the Police into the community. The principle of community ownership of council estates is also valuable in its own right for informing the direction of housing management and policy and where to target effort. The experience and practice of WECH supports the proposition that community ownership of social housing may be an exceptionally effective means for improving and sustaining wellbeing in poor neighbourhoods.
This paper argues that Government policy should actively support mass mutualisation as a means for improving wellbeing on council/social housing estates and for empowering poorer communities to take greater responsibility for their welfare. Regardless of the extent of mutualisation, many of the practices involved are transferable to non‐mutual social landlords, and may be seen as markers of good practice for agencies intending to taken on social housing via transfer.
There is continued interest in the transfer of social housing stock to new provider agencies. WECH has been the only large‐scale statutory transfer until now of council housing in England and Wales to a mutual, community‐owned housing association. WECH's experience is especially relevant for evidencing the significant advantages governments could obtain through encouraging many more transfers of council estates to community housing associations.
Rosenberg, J. (2011), "Social housing, community empowerment and well‐being: part one – empowerment practice in social housing", Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 113-122. https://doi.org/10.1108/14608791111220908
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