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Community Development Presence Needed in Social Housing Sector

The Development Trust Associations for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI) continue to meet twice annually to discuss our common interests in community ownership, economic development and new public policy interventions in support of the work of community development organisations, as well as the challenges we face in our respective regions. At our recent "4 Nations" gathering in Glasgow, we were hosted by Govanhill Community Development Trust (GCDT) a subsidiary of Govanhill Housing Association. The relationship between the two organisations presents an interesting case study for community development trusts and housing associations in NI.

DTNI has long noted that the exclusion of community development trusts from the social housing market does not serve our communities well. Recent housing developments led by Resurgam Trust and Ashton Community Trust in Lisburn and North Belfast respectively has been without the direct support of the NIHE or Housing Policy Division in the Department for Communities. A notable exception has been the direct engagement between Broughshane & District Community Development Association and Triangle Housing (to build eight, 3-person, 2-bedroom apartments). This collaborative endeavour recognises the importance of the community development trust as the local anchor responding to a wide array of needs and delivering activities and services to meet that need.

Too often our social housing providers are only focused on building housing in response to social housing demand. But that demand is being satisfied without any longer-term commitment to wider regeneration of community infrastructure and specifically without commitment to ongoing investment and development in community services.  As a business model it serves housing associations well but the wealth that will be generated by new housing often leaches from communities and the opportunity to capture the value of this wealth and keep it locked into a local circular model of economic development is lost.  DTNI has been engaged with several leading NI housing associations that understand the contradictions inherent in the model of social housing, as well our failure to capitalise on its value for better place-shaping, community wellbeing and wealth building.

DTNI will continue this conversation with NI housing associations, on behalf of local community development trusts, to explore how we can work more strategically and collaboratively, and we welcome the thoughts and contributions from members with an interest in this area. In the meantime, we recommend you research the Govanhill model; it provides much food for thought.

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