1.1 Background to the Association
Blochairn Housing Association is a non-fully mutual Housing Association in the Royston area to the north east of Glasgow City Centre. The Association is controlled by a Management Committee of local residents who are unpaid volunteers.
Between 1991 and 1993 the Association bought 231 houses from Glasgow City Council. The houses have been improved to a high standard using Housing Association Grant and private finance. The original development programme was completed in 2002. In 2011 a new build development added 70 houses for rent and 31 for sale through Shared Equity.
1.2 General Aims of the Policy
As a community owned organisation, created to save and rebuild a tenement community, which needs and receives substantial and prolonged voluntary effort from local residents, the Association has a legitimate and necessary interest in having policies that foster community links and social networks. It must also have policies which are fair and make sure that applicants who are allocated a house have a real need for that house.
The aims of the Association’s Allocation Policy are:
• To allocate housing fairly and objectively, with no discrimination on any grounds, such as, marital status, race, religion, disability, sex or sexual orientation
• To achieve a balance between promoting community and family support, and allocation priorities based on housing need, for example, medical problems, overcrowding, lacking or sharing basic amenities and poor environment
The Association recognises its limitations. With so few houses it cannot be all things to all people. It cannot meet all the needs of the wider community. If it can meet the needs and aspirations of the immediate community this will be a significant achievement. It is also the best way to ensure the long-term viability and to protect the substantial investment of public funds in the area.
1.3 Social Exclusion
Social exclusion could be defined as “the combination of poverty and institutional discrimination, both of which help to create unfavourable life chances and chronic exclusion from normal citizenship” (1).
Social exclusion starts with people feeling that they have no stake in their community, no influence over what happens and no ownership of any decisions. They have an acute and pervasive sense of powerlessness.
The residualisation of social rented housing over the past 35 years has played a significant part in the effective exclusion of the residents of many estates from the rest of society. Poor housing management, particularly of the allocation process, and the insistence on allocations based purely on housing need, has led to the creation of sink estates.
The Association hopes to deal with this issue through a number of initiatives including its allocation policy. It hopes to create and develop a sense of place and to enable the community to take pride in the area.
1.4 Allocation According to Need
Research suggests that “. . . . . allocation according to need is always likely to be a slogan rather than actuality because, in practice, it is tempered by the requirements of political compromise and administrative efficiency” (2). This is perhaps why almost all housing associations give some degree of priority to local people/transfer applicants. Many also camouflage this in some way and, if called to ‘defend’ it, state that they are making best use of limited housing stock.
In a purely needs based system, tenants, by definition adequately housed, would not figure highly, whilst other groups, e.g. homeless applicants, who are more in need, would get the best houses. “This is intellectually as well as politically problematic unless it can be successfully argued that those living in the very worst circumstances should be compensated by being awarded the best (council) houses” (2).
It is also unlikely that housing applicants would understand a system that did not take account of existing tenants.
1.5 Customer Surveys
The Association’s approach to allocations is in keeping with the views expressed by both tenants and waiting list applicants in customer surveys. The Association carried out a Tenant Satisfaction Surveys in 1999, 2004 and 2013. These included questions on community and on allocation priorities.
In 1999 a majority (58%) of Blochairn residents felt a sense of community in the Blochairn area. In 2004 this had increased to 82%. It increased again in 2013 to 92%.
In 1999, 91% of residents felt that priority should be given to existing residents and in 2004 this had risen to 94%. It was still high in 2013 but had reduced to 77%, perhaps due to the changing nature of the area and the community with influx of asylum seekers and economic migrants. A large majority (93%) felt that length of residence was an important consideration in 1999 and this was also the case in 2004. It remained high (84%) in 2013.
In 1999, a survey of Housing List applicants established a similar pattern. A large majority of applicants (79%) believed that length of tenancy was an important consideration whilst only 5% disagreed. In 2003, a further survey showed that 67% thought that length of tenancy should be taken into account. Again, only 5% disagreed.
When asked if the Association’s own tenants applying for a transfer should have priority over Housing List applicants, in 1999, 66% said they should, with only 17% disagreeing. In 2003, there was still a slight majority (51%) who thought that tenants should get priority, whilst 32% disagreed.
In 2013, 61% of Blochairn tenants said that priority should be given to Royston residents and 72% said that the length of residence in Royston.
The results of these surveys have helped shape the current policy.
1.6 Raising Standards in Housing
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) Raising Standards in Housing document in 1999 helped the Association to develop its allocation policy. The Association welcomed the recognition that both the needs of individual applicant and the needs of the community are important. The Association seeks to achieve and maintain a balanced, stable community by
• providing a degree of choice and taking account of the aspirations of housing applicants
• addressing a range of levels of need rather than an over concentration of households with high levels of vulnerability or dependency
• addressing a range of life and employment experiences rather than an excessive over concentration of households wholly dependent on benefit
• creating and sustaining social, community and family networks
In trying to create and sustain social, community and family networks the Association will adopt a broad interpretation of social support and will not ask for documentary evidence unless the applicant wishes to be considered specifically on medical grounds in the Relative in Need category.
Many, so called, “aspirational” factors involve clear housing need elements, e.g. gas central heating, more cupboard space, larger kitchen, etc. However, the Association does not wish to add every possibility to its points system. This would unnecessarily complicate the allocation process.
In view of the low numbers of houses owned by the Association, and the low numbers becoming available for relet, priority must be given to transfer applicants to make sure that the best possible benefit can be gained from any vacancy, using the “vacancy chain reaction” i.e. each transfer applicant housed creates another vacancy. This is the only way to provide any degree of mobility for existing tenants whose needs change over time.
The Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (3) recognised that:
“The range, complexity and severity of needs now displayed by many applicants for housing in the social rented sector means that much greater attention must be paid to community stability”.
Community stability is vital to the long-term future of the Blochairn area.
Substantial public investment has been made in the Blochairn area. The Association recognises that the allocation policy can help to protect and sustain that investment. To achieve this, the community must be empowered and have a real say in the decisions that affect their lives.
After 1999 the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Communities Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities produced “Performance Standards” to guide associations.
The Scottish Housing Charter which will now be monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator. The Association will keep to the principles of the Charter.
1.7 Registered Sex Offenders
The Cosgrove Report 2001 (4) highlighted serious failings in the management of Registered Sex Offenders both within prisons and within the community. Cosgrove recommended that there should be a national accommodation strategy and an education and training programme for housing providers and their management bodies.
The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders (NASSO) was introduced as part of the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in March 2007. However, there is no proper education and training programme and there has been no proper consultation with housing associations.
MAPPA, NASSO and other publications by the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (5) and the University of Glasgow (6) highlight the role of housing organisations in maximising community safety and minimising the risk from Registered Sex Offenders.
The Association does not have the capacity to perform that role. It cannot reasonably claim to be able to maximise community safety and minimise risk from Registered Sex Offenders.
Cosgrove highlighted the danger of locating groups of sex offenders near to each other. However, it is clear that current procedures result in sex offenders being housed disproportionately in poorer communities. The Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (5) recommends that sex offenders should not be housed near to victims or potential victims. Yet poorer communities have significantly higher numbers of young children and single parent households.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (7) stated that housing associations are best placed to identify the risks they face and that outside advisors should not assess risk on their behalf. The Association will assess the risk to Blochairn if a sex offender applies for housing or is referred by another agency. This is an assessment of the consequences to the Association if it provides a house and the sex offender reoffends. This is not an assessment of whether the sex offender is likely to reoffend. That will be decided by the Responsible Authorities.
Where a housing applicant or any member of the applicant’s household has to register with the Police under any legislation relating to Sex Offenders the Association will work with the Responsible Authorities to establish whether there is a threat to community safety. Where a threat exists the application will be suspended.
The position will be reviewed if there is a material change in the circumstances. The applicant will have the right of appeal against the decision. See section 4.8 below.
The Allocation Policy will be regularly reviewed. The current policy is the result of a review completed in October 2016. Every effort has been made to comply with legislation and guidance whilst meeting the specific needs of the Association and its customers. The outcomes of the current policy will be monitored and amendments may be made as appropriate.
In particular, the ongoing debates on social exclusion; housing need .v. choice/aspiration and housing issues relating to Registered Sex Offenders will be followed and any significant developments may be incorporated into the policy.
1. Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland, Newsletter Issue 16, Feb 1998.
2. Clapham D. and Kintrea K. (1992). Housing Allocations (in the Housing Service of the Future). Edited by Donnison D. and MacLennan D. Longmans.
3. Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (1997). Housing Allocations in Scotland – A Practice Note. By Brittain A. and Yanetta A.
4. Scottish Executive (2001). Reducing the Risk: Improving the Response to Sex Offending. Report to the Expert Panel on Sex Offending chaired by Lady Cosgrove.
5. Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (1999). Housing and sex offenders in Scotland. Andrea Moore, Policy Officer.
6. University of Glasgow (2004). Towards a national accommodation strategy for sex offenders. A report for the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland by Atkinson R., Flint J. and Blandy S.
7. Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (2002). Raising Standards in Housing.