Community Gateway - FAQ
What makes the Community Gateway different from a "standard" approach to housing organisations?
The Community Gateway is different, because it is about framing the business to facilitate community. It will do this by:
- pro-actively offering community options in each neighbourhood;
- and by having a tenant membership which can influence policy and elect tenant board members.
To establish a Community Gateway means that the business would be shaped in Local Community Areas, and that resources would be identified to provide empowerment opportunities to communities in those areas.
A Community Gateway is a process to establish a 'tenant democracy' within a mainstream housing business, and to ensure that democracy means something to tenants and communities.
I've heard that the Community Gateway is about tenant management - is the model relevant if no tenants want to set up tenant management organisations?
The Community Gateway is not necessarily about tenant management. Tenant management may be one option amongst many chosen in a Local Community Area, and the Gateway principles say that this option should be available to tenants if they want it.
If no tenants in a Community Gateway wanted to set up tenant management organisations, a Community Gateway could still be set up, and it should still provide a range of local opportunities to communities.
How much prior active tenant involvement is needed to set up a Community Gateway?
Setting up a Community Gateway means that those setting it up should do everything possible to encourage the greatest possible involvement of tenants in all areas that tenants want to be involved with.
However, because the Community Gateway is about adopting a commitment to offering opportunities to tenants through a Community Empowerment Strategy, theoretically a Gateway could be set up without any active tenant involvement if none wished to be!
This would be very strange, because it is unlikely that there would be no tenants who wanted to be involved in setting up a Community Gateway - but there are no minimum numbers necessary.
What is the optimum size for a Community Gateway?
There is no optimum size for a Community Gateway, but the Community Gateway has been designed as a large scale housing organisation within which small scale community organisations and initiatives can be developed. A Community Gateway approach would not be applicable if it made no sense to identify Local Community Areas within the larger housing organisation. So an estate of say 1,000 homes where it made more community sense for the homes to be treated as one unit should consider existing community led housing structures and not the Gateway approach.
The key issue is at what community level ordinary people likely to identify. In some cases, this could be at a level of as few as 50 homes, and the Community Gateway model is designed to ensure that communities can engage at that level if they wish to.
Does a Community Gateway bring in any extra resources?
Not of itself. A Community Gateway would be resourced in the same way that either a stock transfer housing association, an arms length management organisation, or a housing association would be, and it could apply for funding or loans in the same way.
However, it is probable that the Gateway's emphasis on community empowerment would enhance any applications it makes to external funding sources, because community empowerment criteria increasingly lie at the heart of most national, regional and local Government programmes.
Does a Community Gateway need extra resources to implement its community empowerment strategy?
A Community Gateway would need to identify resources to support:
- specialist community empowerment staffing costs,
- tenant training,
- independent advice,
- premises expenses,
- other running costs and expenses,
- communications costs,
- CGA board and membership costs,
- tenant representation costs.
It is probable that these costs would be more than in a 'standard' housing organisation, and these costs would need to be built into the Gateway's business plan. However, there are some important points to bear in mind:
- some of the costs identified above should be in any housing organisation's budget;
- it may be possible for the Gateway to bring in resources from elsewhere to support its community empowerment strategy, although unless these resources have already been identified, they cannot be relied on in the business plan;
- in the long term, a Community Gateway should make some savings as a result of its empowerment work. It is of course not possible to anticipate these savings, but it needs to be understood that resources should not be permanently devoted to empowerment work if - in the long term - they are not leading to beneficial outcomes for tenants and communities.
How would a Community Gateway offer options to communities?
A Community Gateway would offer options to communities in Local Community Areas (defined to match local perceptions of community areas) using a Community Options Study process. This process would involve working in local communities to:
- identify the issues important to people in the area;
- build the capacity of the local community to address those issues;
- identify options available to communities to tackle issues;
- make connections between the community and service providers relevant to the issues identified;
- develop an action plan for the way forward, signed up to by the community and relevant service providers (including the Gateway);
- ensure that the community as a whole supports the action plan.
The options study process would be revisited on a regular basis as each community's aspirations developed. The process for carrying out options studies and their outcomes would be different dependent on the existing community capacity in each area.
How would a Community Gateway offer options to communities wider than on housing issues?
As a housing organisation whose purpose will be to provide social housing, a Gateway could not support non-housing issues unless supporting them led in some way to improvements in the provision of the housing.
However, there is now a wide recognition that you can't make improvements to homes without making improvements to wider issues that go to make up a local neighbourhood. So there will be a number of areas where a Community Gateway would be expected to resource wider issues, such as tackling anti-social behaviour and improving the local environment.
Where a community identifies issues that are not directly part of a Community Gateway remit, it would work in partnership with other organisations, such as the local authority, Sure Start, the police, local schools and others to ensure that opportunities are provided to local communities. Most other organisations now recognise the importance of involving local people in decision-making, and a Community Gateway would be a catalyst, where one is needed, to bringing organisations together with local communities to tackle issues important to communities. A Community Gateway would also be in a position to help communities apply for funding to tackle these issues.
Would a Community Gateway's tenant membership have 'control' over the Gateway's board?
A Community Gateway's tenant membership would elect the Gateway's tenant board members and would be in a position to influence decision making. However, this would not amount to the membership having 'control' over the board. The Gateway board would have to be an independent body that was in a position to make the right decisions to make the business of the Community Gateway function properly. It would be expected that a Gateway board would ensure that it was fully aware of its tenant membership's views before making key decisions, and it would want to ensure that the reasons behind its decisions were explained to the membership.
It is also important to note that once elected, tenant board members would be formally accountable to the board, as would the other board members. The board as a whole would be accountable to the Gateway's stakeholders, including the tenant membership.
How could non-tenants participate in a Community Gateway?
This is a decision that would need to be taken by the communities and officers working on setting up a Community Gateway. Because a Community Gateway is about working in local communities to enable local decision-making about neighbourhood issues, there would need to be a route for non-tenants to participate.
Whilst most Community Gateway's would be set up to own, manage and/or provide social housing, a long term possibility might be that a Gateway might provide services to people from all tenures in a community - ie. managing other housing association homes, services to home owners, services to private tenants and their landlords. If such an approach were taken, this would also be a reason to enable non-tenants to participate.
A possible formula might be:
- actively encouraging non-tenants to participate at the local level through the Local Community Area work;
- allowing tenants and leaseholders to become full (voting) Community Gateway members; allowing non-tenants to become association (non-voting) members of the Community Gateway.