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Housing associations key to localism's success

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Ministers could reinvigorate their localism agenda by harnessing the capacity of the UK’s legion of housing associations, a paper by one of the government’s favoured thinktanks has suggested.

The ResPublica report argues that localism could in fact fail unless a better connection is made between central government and community-based organisations, such as associations.

Report co-author Peter Duncan said housing associations had both a “presence” and “vested interest” in almost every neighbourhood.

“Localism to date has not capitalised on existing resources and local actors,” he added. [Associations] have the skills, capacity and resources to be bolder and more radical for the benefit of residents and wider communities.”

“Government needs to adopt a more strategic, organic and integrated approach in order to achieve the ambitions of the localism agenda.”

Housing associations spend around £756m on community and neighbourhood activities in addition to fulfilling their principal role as affordable housing providers, the report claims.

Association could however better integrate this “social role” into their core business model and prove it- by regularly reporting on their “social impact”, it adds.

John Denny, chief Executive of Chester and District Housing Trust, which sponsored the report, said many associations were already offering much greater power to disadvantaged communities.

“They are doing so because they rightly believe that, as well as building homes, they also need to build stronger and more self-reliant communities,” he added.

“It is vital that housing associations and their partners accept that activity should be central to all housing associations, and should feature significantly in their business models.”

ResPublica was set up by Phillip Blond, the man credited with coming up with the Conservative’s “Big Society” agenda.

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