As a sector it is our purpose to build and maintain high quality homes where people feel safe, supported and can thrive. Sometimes it’s easy to think about housing just in terms of providing shelter, but it goes beyond that. After all, when it comes to housing it’s not just about buildings, it’s really all about people, and social housing providers play an important role in building strong, resilient communities.
2019 marks the seventh year of the Housing Day initiative, a 24-hour UK wide social media event to raise awareness and celebrate the impact social housing has on millions of lives every day of the year. This year the spotlight is on community investment.
Community investment for me means creating good homes in the right places that are supported by value for money, relevant services. Together, these provide the strong foundation many individuals and families need to help lead ‘worry free’ lives and ‘dare to hope’ for a good future for themselves and their children.
I’ve done pretty much everything in housing through my 40-year career. Some of the best (and most challenging) have been working on projects where a community was at the heart of governance and delivery driven directly by their interests.
This year’s Housing Day has inspired me to take a walk down memory lane and remind myself of the most impactful initiatives and projects I’ve had the privilege to be involved with. I’d like to share one of those.
Creating a community led housing association to lead the regeneration of a 1960’s high and medium rise estate was a complex project. It involved several funding streams, integration with other adjacent projects, multiple local authority departments, approval from the Secretary of State and a community that wanted to take control of the changes the local authority proposed to make to their homes and lives.
A key objective for the project was empowering tenants to take control of their regeneration of their estate. We were already engaged with several residents and some natural and vocal leaders had emerged. However, they lacked the skills and the confidence to properly take ownership. Laying the foundations with and for the community involved a lot of blood, sweat and tears on all sides. There were occasions when we all felt like throwing in the towel, but the commitment we had made to the community and their faith in the concept and aims of the project kept us going. Eventually with the right approvals and funding in place the community were able to take control of the demolition and redevelopment of their estate.
For those involved in the governance and direct leadership the confidence, assertiveness, financial and communications skills gained through the project led to job opportunities and self- employment. For other residents it was a way of retaining affordable housing and sustaining a network of relationships and social capital that had existed in the area for decades.
Every year hundreds of people get involved in Housing Day, through hosting events, sharing blogs and ideas or simply affirming their support to a day which is all about celebrating the fantastic work the social housing sector does and the positive impact it has on people’s lives every single day of the year. I am certain that this year will be no different and it makes me incredibly proud of being part of a sector full of passionate, engaged colleagues determined to continue building good quality homes, supporting tenants and creating thriving communities.
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