Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow (Lab)
“In the debates around the Big Society there is always a danger politicians confuse purpose with process, lauding volunteering and community groups in as “a good thing” without acknowledging that what matters is what they do, not the fact they exist. Similarly, unless we are clear as to why the “social” in social housing is important, there is a risk that the benefits housing associations can bring to the communities in which they work will be neither sought nor valued.
“Two housing associations in my own constituency of Walthamstow illustrate well the differences in attitudes to working within a locality. CBHA is based exclusively in Waltham Forest and runs 1,600 properties. With strong resident representation on its board it has been an active partner in community projects, for instance providing training for tenants to become youth workers. Last year I worked alongside them, police and the local councillors to respond to a spate of anti-social behaviour, engaging residents in challenging the problems they were experiencing and organising activities to encourage community cohesion.
“While CBHA embraces working in this way, London and Quadrant takes the opposite approach. In planning to turn the Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium into flats, L&Q has consistently claimed to speak for local residents, rather than showing any real willingness to work with them. A community-led offer to buy back the site and offers to work in partnership with L&Q have been dismissed out of hand. Along with other local MPs I have been deluged with complaints about their conduct, as residents’ determination to restore the track is ignored because it doesn’t suit profit margins. L&Q’s behaviour demonstrates that without a clear commitment to working within the communities in which they are based, housing associations can sometimes do more harm than good.”