Six: Housing associations


The term ‘housing association’ covers a wide range of organisations. It can include small associations and housing trusts (like York Housing Association), large-scale voluntary stock transfer organisations (like New Charter Housing Trust) or, increasingly, groups of associations that appear to be independent of each other but that are in fact linked. For example, Your Housing Group has resulted from the merger of Arena Housing Group (with six subsidiaries) and Harvest Housing Group (which included seven other associations in its group structure). Associations may be small: 30% have no paid staff and 80% have fewer than 100 homes to manage. A relative few are very large: 1% have over 10,000 homes. Stock transfer associations (or companies) are likely to be big, with more than 500 staff. In the late 1980s there were approximately 475,000 association homes for rent. Now the figure is just over two million.

The work of housing associations will be considered by looking at:

  • some key financial features of associations and the tension between commercial and welfare-oriented values;

  • housing management in Leafy Glades Housing Association (Leafy Glades HA) – a medium-sized housing association working in 2011/12;

  • financing new rented homes and the changing relationship between public grant and different kinds of private finance or private contribution.

Until 1988 many associations occupied a semi-public position, working closely with local authorities, but Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted them to become part of a new ‘independent rented sector’. Following the Housing Act 1988, which enabled associations to use private finance as well as public grant to develop housing, the Conservatives’ ‘independent rented sector’ was made up of housing associations and private landlords.

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