GWSF raises alarm over community-based housing associations surrendering independence after statutory intervention

Helen Moore

The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) has written to Housing Minister Kevin Stewart to raise the alarm over a “recent trend” of community-based housing associations being taken over by larger regional or national associations following statutory intervention by the Scottish Housing Regulator.

GWSF is concerned that, in a number of recent cases, community-based associations have chosen to sacrifice their independence as they decide their future after governance issues triggered regulatory intervention.

The Forum said this contrasts with the earlier decisions of three community-based housing associations to retain their independence despite the serious issues which led to the original intervention.

In a letter to the Housing Minister, GWSF said that some associations opting to give up their independence have been in a generally strong financial position with low debt, and good services to tenants, despite the problems they have faced.

The Forum wants to see a discussion around whether there are factors and pressures within the process of statutory intervention which could be leading to decisions being made too readily.

As well as writing to the Minister, the Forum is also seeking to meet with the Scottish Housing Regulator to discuss its concerns.

GWSF chair Helen Moore said: “We recognise that each decision over its future is made by the association itself, with different factors at play in each individual case, and that tenants are balloted on the final choice of partner.

“But the trend in the loss of independence of associations which have existed for 20-30 years or more has to be a big worry for the Forum. It seems it’s being concluded in these cases that there’s no prospect of the local community, through its control of the local association, exercising competent governance in the same way that over 50 hugely successful organisations across the west of Scotland and beyond currently do.

“Assets being owned and controlled by the local community is consistent with the Scottish Government’s aspirations for community empowerment. If local assets are sold, they won’t return to community ownership.

“Sale to an external agency should be a last resort, with every reasonable step taken to restore community capacity to govern the housing assets and local services to tenants.”

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