What is the Social Purpose of housing now?

Social purpose has been expressed through a variety of approaches.  These have included tenant participation in the 1980s, Housing Plus in the 1990s, In Business for Neighbourhoods in the early 2000s and more recently Community Investment.  However, described, it has always been marginal, specialist and discretionary; it has never been ‘core’ activity. What if we did it differently?  What if we maximised the value and values of a business to do more? 

Housing associations have always had a social purpose, above and beyond their role as landlords.  Simply providing housing is not enough to enable many people to sustain their tenancies.  Unless tenants are supported when they need it and the communities they live in are viable socially and economically, housing associations are not fulfilling their charitable objectives or protecting their income streams and capital assets.  In short, having a social purpose makes social, economic and business sense.

So, what if we asked ourselves: what is the social purpose of housing now?  What if we:

  • Used existing resources, staff and money, to deliver social outcomes across the business
  • Embedded and fully integrated social purpose into all business services and units
  • Building on what we already do and doing more through maximising value       

HACT is offering advice and support to housing associations who want to explore this question and determine their social purpose for a new era, a changed set of conditions and circumstances which require new approaches and solutions.  As the ideas and innovation agency for housing, we are developing an approach to reviewing and re-engineering the social purpose of housing, including using existing resources to deliver social outcomes across the business, by embedding and integrating social purpose and building on what we already do.

Now, more than ever, we need to sustain and strengthen our businesses, maximising the value we have in staff and resources to increase our social value makes sense. We need to change the relationship with customers to one with citizens, reducing need and dependency and encouraging self-reliance. And we need to know how much of the gap left by the retreat of the state to fill in order to prioritise and make best use of our investments.

  • Timetable: 6-12 months
  • Cost: TBC, dependent on scope

If you are interested in this project and would like to find out more, contact james.williams@hact.org.uk.