Over recent months, RBH has been working with tenants and employees to develop a new ownership and governance model for the future of council housing in Rochdale.
The vision is based on co-ownership, with tenants and employees as members, to build into the fabric of the organisation a sense of shared priorities and working together.
This concept emerged from the deliberations of an Investment and Involvement Commission set up by Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council in 2009 to examine the future options for the Council’s housing stock. The final recommendation of the Commission was to transfer the housing stock, which is currently owned by the Council and managed by RBH as an arms-length management organisation, to a new mutual model co-owned by tenants and employees. It saw this as the best way to secure long-term financial sustainability and to give tenants and employees a stronger sense of ownership in providing high quality housing service for the future. The transfer is subject to the approval of the tenants in a ballot and final Council and Ministerial consent.
This approach is put forward as a new form of public ownership. It is a community benefit society (industrial and provident society) with a legal commitment to public purpose, and retention of any surplus for the benefit of the community. Through democratic governance arrangements involving tenants, employees, the Council and other key local interests, those responsible for delivering services are directly accountable to those most affected by them.
This new co-operative or collaborative approach, which is consistent with the co-regulatory approach followed by the Tenant Services Authority, has the potential to break down binary or dualistic relationships, and to get people, bodies and agencies working together much more effectively for the benefit of the community. It also forms a new basis for collaborative working with the Council itself. It is a model which other ALMOs may be interested in exploring. For the reasons discussed below, it may also be a model which existing housing associations would like to explore.