CHOICE IN SOCIAL RENTING
Companies and other bodies are to be allowed to compete with housing associations for government funds to provide new social housing. Published on June 27, the White Paper Our Future Homes: Opportunity, Choice and Responsibility sets out how the government wants to bring in new types of landlord and encourage transfers of stock from local authorities. Safeguards will require landlords to adhere to specified standards, a proportion of tenants to be nominated by councils, rents to be “affordable” (no higher than a specified rate above or below inflation) and the Housing Corporation to monitor performance. However much inner city stock suffers from a form of negative equity – poor physical condition and low value exceeding outstanding debt – and doubts have been expressed whether City money will be forthcoming. Contact Department of the Environment on 0171 276 0900
COMMUNITY INVESTMENT FUND
English Partnerships launched a new Community Investment Fund on July 5, with the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration, David Curry MP. Grants ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 for capital projects will help local communities to participate in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods. Projects are more likely to receive approval if they have other funding partners. English Partnerships is a government body (previously the Urban Regeneration Agency) concentrating on reclaiming derelict and vacant land. Contact Sue Musgrave, English Partnerships, on 0171 680 2000
TOWN CENTRES BOOSTED
The Environment Secretary, John Gummer MP, published on July 19 new planning guidelines to strengthen town centres, only allowing out-of-town development where no suitable city centre site is available. Among the new elements sought are a reduction in car use in towns, improvement in public transport, regeneration of the centre to include leisure, education, residential and business use; and more town centre promotion managers.
As part of the change of emphasis in government, John Gummer launched an Urban Design Campaign on June 7, offering funding for case studies in townscape design. A pamphlet, Quality in Town and Country, is available free from the Department of the Environment. Contact Department of the Environment on 0171 276 0900
BTEG, the Black Training and Enterprise Group, has criticised local authorities and TECs for not including black groups in Single Regeneration Budget partnerships. In its report published on June 15, Invisible Partners: The Impact of the SRB on Black Communities, it says grants that previously went directly to black communities are now pooled in the SRB. In the first round of SRB bidding, only 8% of funds addressed the specific needs of minority ethnic communities and none of the black-led bids succeeded. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for partners including companies. Contact Jeremy Crook, BTEG, on 0171 713 6161
SINGLE REGENERATION BUDGET
A new handbook has been issued by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations entitled The Single Regeneration Budget Handbook; A Guide to Making Bids to the Challenge Fund. Published at the end of June, this explains how the SRB works and the part voluntary organisations can play in the bidding process. Contact NCVO on 0171 713 6161
SOCIAL ACTION CENTRES
The TSB Foundation has donated £16,000 over three years to the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres to produce four guides to good practice on regeneration in local neighbourhoods. The Association is an urban community network of 60 social action centres which provide information, advice, training and management support to community members – around 100,000 people use the centres each week. Contact Debra Lenton, TSB, on 0171 398 3707
Most community affairs managers would say that improving the appalling state of inner city housing is the clear responsibility of government. If government wants to incentivise commercial landlords in, that’s up to them; it’s still not something we should devote our limited resources to.
Think again. For hundreds of thousands of people, life revolves around these big estates. Few will ever work for long enough in jobs that pay enough to enable them to get out. They’ll certainly never benefit from the enterprise schemes set up by many community affairs programmes. Apathy and despondency set in far too long ago. Yet they do care about their own homes. Get them motivated and involved in improvements, and the people and their estates are back on the road to recovery.
So better social housing is the key to regeneration. A good start is through employee volunteers and secondees with business skills, essential if more tenants associations are to grow into management cooperatives. But the property divisions of the major public companies could get involved, nurturing local housing companies. Then if private capital is to return, this time it is the tenants not Rackmanite landlords who would benefit.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 23 – August, 1995