The CCH Conference

by Chris Dornan on August 14, 2008

Adrienne Robers of the Housing Corporation with Blase Lambert of CCH

Adrienne Robers of the Housing Corporation with Blase Lambert

I have posted my notes on the CCH conference in the CCH area of the CHIBAH Intranet (cch.chibah.org).

The conference started with Nic Bliss, the CCH chair, reminding us of how favourable the political climate has become for co-operative/tenant-managed housing, and featured Adrienne Roberts of the Housing Corporation reminding us that housing co-operatives, though occupying about 22% of the small housing associations, generate about 60% of the complaints; she also fingered rent arrears as a problem for co-operatives (the Housing Corporation requires housing associations to report their rent arrears so she has the data).  My own random poll reinforced a sense that there was room for improvement and our own Helen Russell in the AGM called for us to raise our game generally and address areas that we know we can improve on.

Stephen Edwards from the Decent Homes and Finance Division, Communities and Local Government, explained some of the work his department was doing.  There seem to be a top to bottom rethink of social housing and Stephen had come to listen as well as much as talk.  Of the many interesting contributions I was struck by Carl Taylor’s (Redditch Co-operative Homes) suggestion that the government should be looking to pump money directly into bricks and mortar rather than using the benefits system to make housing accessible with its attendant poverty traps.  I would like to hear more on this and will see if I can persuade Carl to expand on this point here.

I was surprised at the enthusiasm for the Decent Homes Standards among the delegates.  I mean as a tenant of short-life housing co-operative there is no way that I would want anything to do with the Decent Homes Standard (and because we haven’t taken the Housing Corporation’s coin I don’t think is applicable; and it may not apply to short-life anyway).  I mean that when I am in control of the maintenance budget I don’t want the sledge hammer of legislation to set my priorities.  For sure if I am the captive of some vast, and for all practical purposes, unaccountable housing conglomerate then I do want some protection from legal minimum standards.

I have an interest in this issue, having a letter from the local authority citing the Decent Homes Standard as a reason for removing me from my home at the end of the month (the Housing Association citing it as a reason for pulling out of the property); all of our pleas to keep it in co-operative management (and rehab it) have been disregarded.  I would feel better about it if someone else got a home but nothing I have seen leaves me to believe this will happen.

We discussed the CCH conference in the July CHIBAH meeting and it triggered initiatives to tackle two areas in particular: rent arrears and communications.  Some of the internet tools we are putting in place should help us to improve our communications and we think that by better pooling our experience we can avoid some past mistakes.

Overall the conference seems to have been a success.

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