Housing associations: How much do you know about them?

Social Housing November 2nd, 2016
Housing associations: How much do you know about them?

Housing associations are currently defined as: a non-profit organisation that rents houses and flats to people on low incomes or with particular needs.

A Brief History

Housing associations begin to appear in the mid to late nineteenth century during the affluent period of the ‘Industrial Revolution’. The ‘revolution’ had had three effects, it had created vast wealth for many, it had created a new class – the middle class – and it had created the destitute poor. The combination of these three effects had the affect of filling the air with a philanthropic vibe. Soon, those that had done well during the ‘Industrial Revolution’ began to give back to society. One of the major issues during this period was housing, and thus the Housing association was born. One of London’s first Housing associations is still in existence. The Peabody Trust was founded in 1862 and currently houses around 70,000 Londoners.

Housing Associations remained an important part of the social housing construct for the next century. Then, under Margaret Thatcher, there was a huge shift in the social housing policy of the Government that saw government housing stock sold off and not replaced. This created a large supply and demand problem. In stepped the housing associations. A lot of stock was actually bought by the non-profit organisations, meaning that there was still some ‘affordable housing’ for people to rent.

During the financial crisis of 2008, housing associations again stepped in to start bailing out the water. It appears that the already pitiful amount of houses being built prior to the crash hit rock bottom once the effects of the crash were felt. This wasn’t true for housing associations. During the crash, the organisations built 40,000 homes throughout the U.K., providing much needed social housing and support.

Housing Associations Today

In 2015, these non-profit groups housed nearly two million people nationwide. They provide a much needed buffer for the distinct lack of social housing provided by the government. However it is not enough, if you go to the Government website to apply for a property from a housing association, you are greeted with the message of your dreams: “You may have to wait a long time for a suitable property to become available.” This is not their fault, but is worth noting nonetheless.

Unfortunately, there have recently been murmurings that these philanthropic associations are not what they once were. Letters written to parliament about broken boilers not being fixed, heaters falling off walls and other horror stories are start to muddy their good name. Furthermore, the merger of two housing associations Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing is going to create one of the largest housing associations in Europe. They will own 127,000 properties throughout London and house nearly half a million people. Whilst this is a terrific amount of affordable housing to have, it brings in to question the local accountability of these associations.

Hopefully these worries will not come to fruition, but Arthur shall monitor them nonetheless.

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