The Confederation of Co-operative Housing in partnership with The Co-operative Union presents:
Stock Transfer - the Community Gateway Model
The CCH's stock transfer proposals will be launched on 24th October in the House of Lords in a Mutuo publication together with critiques by Cobbetts and HACAS Chapman Hendy. A project proposal is being drafted to consult on and develop/implement the stock transfer proposals. A key part of the consultation programme will be two seminars, aimed at local authority members, staff and tenants, in Manchester on 5th December, and in London on 12th December. For further details, please contact the Co-op Union Events Office on 0161 246 2908 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Any comments on these proposals should be directed to email@example.com
community control through stock transfer
Providing extensive opportunities for tenant control and community empowerment is the only way that the long term investment that results from a stock transfer programme can be safeguarded. The establishment of the Community Housing Task Force within the DTLR, with a mission to provide guidance on developing and enhancing community empowerment demonstrates that the Government recognises that the development of community empowerment is fundamental to the stock transfer process.
The principle of community empowerment is potentially important in all forms of large scale rented housing. Research carried out for the Housing Corporation showed that 11% of RSL tenants (some 300,000 tenants) listed having more control over the homes and environment as being their most important priority, while recent research carried out by the Confederation of Co-operative Housing indicated that the community aspects of tenant controlled housing are amongst the most important priorities for tenants, alongside crime and safety issues and issues relating to the housing itself.
Responding to these priorities, the CCH is currently working on a major programme in partnership with the Housing Corporation to develop best practice in community control for the RSL sector to give RSL tenants a range of options to choose from. However, this is a long term programme aimed at the existing RSL sector. As yet, most stock transfers have generated little community empowerment, and there is an urgent need for a stock transfer model that provides community options. Changing the culture of the stock transfer process to one where significant community empowerment opportunities are stimulated in the way that we envisage in this paper will be a catalyst for change across the RSL sector as a whole into a sector where communities can collectively control their own destinies.
This paper sets out how the CCH's proposals to develop the Community Gateway Model of stock transfer will achieve these aims.
2 the cch proposals
Under the Community Gateway Model, we are proposing that the transfer RSL is not an end in itself. Transfer should happen to an enabling RSL whose purpose it to facilitate tenants deciding how much control they want to take in their neighbourhoods. As a primary function of the RSL, it would operate an ongoing community empowerment strategy, which generates a long term vision of residents' desires. Over a period of time, all neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods defined by residents themselves, would be given a range of options, through a community options study process. This process would aim to put each neighbourhood, each community onto a ladder of empowerment at a level at which the community felt comfortable.
The key features that need to be included in the community options study process are:
- a focussed approach that enables all residents in a local area to identify key issues.
- the provision of options to residents.
- building the capacity of residents to make informed decisions about their neighbourhoods.
- development of links between residents and those organisations that have a bearing on the neighbourhood.
- development of an action plan on the way forward.
- a method of ensuring that the community as a whole supports the action plan.
In some neighbourhoods, where the capacity of tenants and residents is higher, the community options study process may take less time than in areas where there has been little work done to develop the community capacity. However, each of the above ingredients are vital to a successful process to enable tenants and communities to determine the future of their neighbourhoods.
It would be part of the Community Gateway Model that several options would be presented to tenants, many of them listed in the Housing Corporation's Communities in Control strategy. However the model would require that the following would need to be included:
- providing services in a standard tenant / landlord relationship (even if tenants opted for this option, that active choice would lead to greater accountability for the landlord).
- development of various tenant participation methods.
- estate agreement type approaches.
- tenant management (with a preserved Right to Manage framework written into the transfer process and a choice for tenants of the areas of management they wish to take over).
- enabling tenant organisations to register with the Housing Corporation and set up housing co-ops through leasehold from the RSL.
- subsequently enabling transfer of ownership to housing co-ops.
- the means to staircase up and down through the various options.
- working with bodies outside the RSL's control on various community control options not related specifically. to the housing service (eg. involvement with the police, youth workers, schools, health programmes, economic regeneration).
- involvement with neighbourhood forums and local strategic partnerships.
3 the enabling RSL
The transfer offer documents, the rules and mission statements of each Community Gateway Model transfer RSL and any applicable terms of leases for the RSLs should commit them, as their guiding objective, to promoting options for local neighbourhood community control to their tenants and to devolving power and control to local neighbourhoods wherever possible and desired by the communities.
The governance structures of the Community Gateway Model RSL should be set up in such a way as to meet the requirements of the Housing Corporation, at the same time as giving the maximum possible safeguard to tenants that the community empowerment strategy will be carried through.
Membership of the Community Gateway Model RSL should be promoted to and open to tenants and residents on payment of a £1 share. The RSL should set target percentages for recruitment of tenant and resident members, and should there be less than half of the RSL's tenants as members, or should tenants make up less than half of the overall membership, the RSL should identify this as something that needs attention and outline what it is going to do to address this in its annual report on the community empowerment strategy. Numbers of members from various ethnic and other minority groups should also be considered and strategies developed to ensure an equitable membership base.
The purpose of membership of the Community Gateway Model RSL will be:
- to elect the tenant and resident membership of the RSL board. There should be the highest possible and desirable number of tenants / residents on the RSL board, and they should be subject to resident election at the earliest possible occasion (preferably as early as shadow board stages before the transfer ballot, but as a minimum from the second year of the RSL onwards).
- to elect any local authority membership of the RSL board from a slate of potential candidates.
- to ratify the independent membership of the RSL board. It should be the role of the tenant Shadow Board members to determine who the initial independent representatives are, subject to fulfilling Housing Corporation requirements that necessary skills are present on the overall board. Subsequently this decision should be made by the membership of the RSL.
- to receive the annual report of the RSL, particularly the annual report on the community empowerment strategy.
- to start to build the principle of community self-help within the Community Gateway Model RSL and throughout the community as a whole.
Each Community Gateway Model RSL should develop a community empowerment strategy prior to transfer in consultation with tenants. Community Gateway Model RSL rules should include a requirement that this community empowerment strategy should be reported on at the annual general meeting each year as the strategy develops and this should be considered to be a fundamental performance requirement. The strategy should include an aim that tenants in all neighbourhoods should be given the opportunity to consider a range of options for community control. The neighbourhood boundaries may be worked out prior to transfer through a tenant consultation process where tenants are asked which neighbourhood they consider themselves to be part of. This will assist with ensuring that the RSL's business plan can accommodate future staircasing.
The community empowerment strategy should also indicate how tenants will be consulted and be involved in the decision making processes relating to refurbishment, clearance and subsequent planning that will result from stock transfer. This consultation should be carried out in such a way as to develop as much community capacity as possible and to encourage those who may wish to consider options for community control.
Enough resources should be identified in the business plan for each RSL to enable them to carry out community empowerment work in all neighbourhoods. A significant part of this work could be carried out by the RSL's in-house tenant participation staff, thereby lessening the need for extra resources to implement the community empowerment strategy, although it is probable that there will be a need for training and some method of accrediting that the community empowerment work is being carried out to appropriate standards, which may involve the need for extra resources.
The RSL will also need to consider staffing, budgetry and other practical implications on the RSL itself of tenants choosing to establish a tenant control option. The neighbourhood boundaries, agreed with tenants, should be used as the basis for financial and other management arrangements. This should allow that the principle behind local authority Right to Manage Management Agreements - that the local authority gives allowances to tenant management organisations equivalent to what they have spent or will spend to run the services - can be maintained for prospective tenant management organisations wherever possible.
As the community empowerment strategy progresses, the enabling RSL will become:
- the ongoing management provider to areas not choosing community control at this stage.
- a provider of services to those neighbourhoods that do wish to exercise community control.
5 community land trusts
As part of the stock transfer process, ownership of the land freehold might be transferred to neighbourhood Community Land Trusts, particularly the freehold of land available through demolition, in order to enable a broader cross-section of community stakeholders (residents, the Local Authority, community fora, local business interests etc) to control the development of local community assets. A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a community-controlled organisation, which owns the freehold of land, and which leases properties to other organisations or people according to a community orientated agenda. Land may come to the CLT from either public sources (i.e. land gifted by the council or housing associations) or from private sources, where individual homeowners transfer equity in return for access to finance to maintain their homes. In rural settings and in areas with higher land valuation, a CLT can also be used as a mechanism to preserve affordable home ownership. The advantages of the CLT approach is that it marries the interests of tenants and homeowners in one neighbourhood community housing organisation, and involves the local authority in strategic directions.
Were a Community Land Trust established to take ownership of land from RSLs, it would need to be registered with the Housing Corporation. The Corporation are currently funding feasibility work into the Community Land Trust structure, and pilot studies are being carried out in Birmingham, through funding from Birmingham City Council and in various rural locations.
6 the Community Gateway Model will:
- acquire a reputation of being THE tenant-friendly method of stock transfer, where tenants will ask why the local authority is not looking at the model if they don't.
- fit with current Housing Corporation and other requirements.
- be cost effective in the long term.
- get the greatest possible number of tenants onto a rung of community empowerment.
- enable community empowerment with safeguards, particularly for lenders.
- transform the RSL sector to enable communities to collectively determine the future of their neighbourhoods.