We believe it should be supported and celebrated for the multitude of ways it improves the lives of tenants and communities across the UK.
Over the last few years, however, we’ve heard regularly from colleagues about community investment budgets being cut, projects being closed down and morale being depleted.
Community investment, it seems, is often the first budget line that gets cut when HAs are looking to trim their spending.
Despite the estimated annual investment of £750m in community-based activities by English HAs, there is a sense that community investment is a nice add-on, rather than being at the core of social housing.
As one colleague said to me the other day, “if social housing providers stopped doing community investment, then how would they be any different from private rental landlords?”
In September, we took the first step in redressing this balance with the launch of the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment at the NHF Housing Summit.
The Centre has been funded and supported by five leading housing associations: Orbit, L&Q, Clarion Futures, Peabody and Sovereign.
We’ve got three key aims for the Centre:
- To provide a platform to promote the importance of community investment, both inside and outside of the social housing sector
- To ensure community investment underpins social housing providers as they evolve their services, and their relationships with their tenants and communities
- To enable community investment professionals to share and develop their practice
Key to the Centre’s development will be how we involve community investment professionals in its design.
We want the Centre to meet their needs, expectations and day-to-day working requirements.
So when they’re writing a business case to persuade their colleagues about, for example, the need for investing in a tenancy sustainment initiative, they’ll be able to search and find suitable examples online.
Or when they’re looking for a new way of working with their tenants and communities, responding creatively to local issues, they’ll be able to find fellow professionals to share ideas and collaborate.
To find out what they want from the Centre, we’re running a series of seven roadshows around the UK.
We will, of course, present some of the ideas we’ve got for the Centre around its proposed four workstreams.
Ultimately, however, we want to hear from colleagues from across the sector so that the Centre responds to their needs and passion for their work and helps them to demonstrate the impact and importance of community investment.
Our aim is that the Centre will help housing associations realise the importance and impact of community investment, recognising it is at the core of their social purpose. Sign up and get involved, for we’re putting community investment back at the heart of social housing.
- For more information about the roadshows and the proposed work of the Centre, visit the Centre’s new website – www.ceci.org.uk