Housing associations in the United Kingdom are independent not-for-profit bodies that provide low-cost social housing for people in housing need. Any trading surplus is used to maintain existing homes and to help finance new ones. They are now the United Kingdom's major providers of new homes for rent, while many also run shared ownership schemes to help people who cannot afford to buy their own homes outright.
Housing associations provide a wide range of housing, some managing large estates of housing for families, while the smallest may perhaps manage a single scheme of housing for older people. Much of the supported accommodation in the UK is also provided by Housing Associations, with specialist projects for people with mental health or learning disabilities, with substance misuse problems (drugs or alcohol), the formerly homeless, young people, ex-offenders and women fleeing domestic violence.
Funding and regulationEdit
Housing associations' day-to-day activities are funded by rent and service charges payments made by, or on behalf of those living in its properties. In this sense, housing associations are run as commercial entities and the majority do not depend on donations for their general activities.
New housing however tends to require subsidies to be economic, the source of which will depend on where the association is based:
- In England, housing associations were funded and regulated by the Housing Corporation. However the Housing and Regeneration Act (2008) created two new bodies. From the 1st December 2008 the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) deals with funding and regeneration work and the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) take responsibility for regulation. From 2010 the TSA will regulate all providers of social housing and they will all be known as Registered Providers irrespective of the private, public, for profit or not for profit status.
- In Wales, the regulation and funding of housing associations is carried out by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Registered Social Landlord (RSL) is the technical name for social landlords that in England were registered with the Housing Corporation, or in Wales with the Welsh Assembly Government - most are housing associations, but there are also trusts, co-operatives and companies.
Funding for new homes (often termed 'social housing grant') amount to sizeable public investments. In its 2008-11 Prospectus, the Housing Corporation stated that in the three year period to 2011 subsidy would be "at least £8 billion".  The majority of this would go to housing associations for use in development projects. Since 2003, in an effort to seek greater value for money, much of the funding by the Housing Corporation for new house building has been channelled to fewer than 80 "developing housing associations" that have achieved "partner status" through Partner Programme Agreements.
There are four industry bodies representing housing associations working in the UK, each covering a respective home nation. They are:
- England - National Housing Federation (NHF)
- Scotland - Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
- Wales - Community Housing Cymru (CHC)
- Northern Ireland - Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA)
The NHF (formerly the National Federation of Housing Associations) claimed that at the start of 2003 they had around 1400 non-profit housing organisations in their membership, owning or managing approximately 1.8 million homes across England.
Legal status Edit
Housing associations are generally considered as private entities in that they are not owned nor directly controlled by the state. This status however has been challenged by a number of legal rulings in the last few years. In 2004 the British government accepted an EU ruling that considered housing associations as public bodies for the purposes of procurement.
More recently, the UK high court in Weaver v. London and Quadrant Housing Trust  has ruled that housing associations were public authorities and as a result could be subject to judicial review in certain circumstances.  The court stated that the Housing Association sector was
permeated by state control and influence with a view to meeting the Government's aims for affordable housing, and in which RSLs work side by side with, and can in a very real sense be said to take the place of, local authorities'This issue has wider political significance given that housing associations borrowing (which stood at approximately £30bn in 2006 ) does not currently contribute to the UK's public sector borrowing requirement - the control of which is both a stated government objective and part of the EU's criteria for membership of the European Single Currency.
A feature of Housing Associations is that, although the larger Housing Associations usually have paid staff, a committee or board of management made up of volunteers has overall responsibility for the work of the organisation. A board might include residents, representatives from local authorities and community groups, business people and politicians. There are more than 30,000 voluntary board members running housing associations throughout England.
Housing associations first appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century as part of the growth in philanthropic and voluntary organisations brought about by the growth of the middle classes in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
They increased in importance over the last decades of the twentieth century due to changes to council housing brought in by the Thatcher government, when rules were introduced that prevented councils subsidising their housing from local taxes, channelled grants for construction of new Social housing to Housing Associations and allowed Council tenants to buy their homes at a large discount. This, combined with cost-cutting initiatives in local government and a housing benefit scheme that was more generous to housing associations than local authorities, led to many councils transferring their housing stock to housing associations. These organisations are often referred to as Large Scale Voluntary Transfer organisations or Local Housing Companies.
In the 2000s, some larger associations formed regional clubs for purposes including lobbying government bodies. The G15 of London’s largest associations was followed by East Seven in East Anglia.
- ↑ http://www.housingcorp.gov.uk/upload/pdf/NAHP_2008-11_Prospectus%2C_new.pdf
- ↑ http://www.pinsentmasons.com/PDF/LG_DivisionalCourtRSL_PublicAuthority0608.pdf
- ↑ http://www.housingcorp.gov.uk/server/show/conWebDoc.3939 - Housing Association borrowing to exceed £30 Billion by 2006"
- ↑ Model is broken say mega-associations, Inside Housing, 12 Sept 2008
- ↑ Seven of the largest housing associations in the east of England have clubbed together, Inside Housing, 23 June 2008
- National Housing Federation (covers England only)
- Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
- Community Housing Cymru
- Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations
- Social Housing Law Association
- Chartered Institute of Housing
- National Housing Maintenance Forum
- The Rise of the Housing Association
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