In his latest Mutuo think piece, Cliff Mills talks about the policy opportunity for mutual social housing.
There are two clear challenges for social housing today which are making it one of the top political priorities.
The first is the need to build more homes: homes that people can afford, and are of the quality that people want to live in. The second is to give tenants a voice in how housing is provided, which includes the ability to have influence over things that impact on neighbourhoods and communities, and being able to use this voice as a mechanism for ensuring that social housing providers are accountable to communities.
Housing is more than one issue. It cannot be separated from jobs, health and well-being, elderly care, fuel poverty, environmental issues, community safety, education and training, and much else besides. Homes are part of neighbourhoods and have to be understood in their context. The success of housing can only be measured in this bigger context, and in interaction with that context.
Policy-makers can and should do what they can, seeing things from their strategic vantage point. But since 2000 there have been some radical developments from within the social housing movement itself which it is time to take note of, because they could make a significant contribution in meeting today’s challenges.
These developments involve a democratic member-based approach, giving individuals a voice in their organisation, sharing power beyond the board and senior executives, and at the same time making governance more robust.
There are now eleven democratic member-based housing providers in England and Wales, which together provide over 85,000 homes. A recently released corporate strategy by one of these organisations (discussed further below) outlines how it will be delivering services and what its ambitions are over the next ten years. This document provides evidence of the relevance of this approach in meeting today’s pressing challenges.