In this honest and powerful critique, a housing chief executive lays down the challenge: stand up for communities, young people and social justice, or sell out and go the way of the Banks.
The biggest challenge in the coming years is our response to young people. I am not sure if housing associations really understand this challenge and if they are ready to take it on. It depends how far they want to go to unearth the real community issues in their neighbourhoods. The defence of “it’s not our responsibility” is weak. If the housing association movement doesn’t recognise their responsibility then we face a difficult future. They will be complicit in creating the new ghettos in our cities. They could of course avoid the whole issue as they have done up to now through stealth selective allocation policies (eg. Not allowing enough nomination to be available to the local authorities to assist people at the bottom of the social ladder).
We need to ask, “Are housing associations the future of social housing? Are they going to lead the challenge to provide affordable social housing to those in real need and partake in addressing deprivation and disadvantage in a partnership with other key agencies? From my standpoint the housing associations are gathering a technocracy workforce of ….yes, technocrats. As much as I believe this group has a role to play in terms of business management, I equally believe they are rapidly moving away from real social responsibility.
Remembering key “Left” social reformers I think it’s time “they put down their iPads” and started thinking about the growing social issues in our communities. Taking “social” out of housing is leading to a complete alienation of large numbers of our community. We need a serious debate in shaping housing associations of the future and for them to do some serious sole searching about what their purpose is. We must renew our commitment to Public Service and renew our oath as Public Servants. This is the only way we will understand our communities and their needs. The longer we leave it the stronger the hold by Deprivation. There may come a time when we cannot reverse what we have allowed to happen.
I think housing associations are going down the route of mutual building societies – they followed the hunger of becoming banks and look where this has ended up.