“The ResPublica Report correctly identifies a disconnect between some housing associations and the communities around them, which are typically in more deprived areas. What the report has highlighted is two crucial points: firstly that these communities are bearing the brunt of the cuts and are most likely to have reduced public services, and secondly that they are the least enabled and equipped to respond to the changes effectively.
“The document shows that communities need effective support to really take advantage of their new rights under the Localism Act. Fewer and fewer publicly funded organisations have the capacity or the engagement role to react appropriately, particularly with the loss of community contact points such as libraries and Citizens Advice Bureaus. With local authorities cutting back on expenditure and focusing on delivering only core services, housing associations have become one of the few organisations that are equipped to engage with and respond to wider community needs.
“As the core purpose of housing associations has changed rapidly over the last few years, the report encouragingly shows that a number of housing associations are moving toward becoming more holistic neighbourhood organisations rather than just providers of housing. It is essential that national policy such as the Public Service (Social Value) Act 2012 expands its remit to cover this sector, meaning that housing associations that already apply its principles are acknowledged, and those that as yet do not are encouraged to do so.”