I’ve been reading Morag McDermont’s recent book on the history of the housing association sector and the National Housing Federation, Governing, Independence and Expertise: The Business of Housing Associations. It’s a cracking read and much recommended. It tells the story of the rise of associations, and their development into the business-focused bureaucracies we know and love today. It was as I read this that J flicked over an article about L&Q’s proposed re-development of the Walthamstow dog track. This involves a spat between L&Q and Iain Duncan-Smith – as NL observed in correspondence, it’s* difficult to know which of those two you’d like to see come out on top. IDS accuses L&Q of misleading the public about Sport England’s level of involvement in the redevelopment project. Given IDS’ involvement in the emasculation of housing benefit and claims around that, I would say that we are talking pots and kettles here.
There is, however, an equally serious point here about the growth of housing associations and their agglommeration into major, well, corporations with paid board members, executives with fat-cat salaries (if you’ll forgive the gutter-press speak), group structures, takeovers and all the other accoutrements of businesses. McDermont’s book is a salutary read because it reminds us of the amazing power and influence that these institutions have on the social housing world, a far cry from the rationale for their use as social housing vehicles in the 1980s. L&Q is a member of what used to be called (and probably still is) the G15 of housing associations – large, although not necessarily the largest, ones which, should they decide to do so en bloc, could have sensational regulatory powers; could make or break social housing policy; but seem by repute to be a bit of a dining club. It could be a force for good but I suspect their “good” and mine won’t necessarily correlate. L&Q’s approach to the redevelopment may be an example of that, although I don’t know any of the details beyond the report (so, forgive me for (a) treating Inside Housing as gospel, and (b) if I’m wrong, and (c) not knowing more).
Have a lovely shiny weekend.
* note the apostrophe, Pauline – none of those new-fangled “ipads” here