Open green space often features in social housing sites, be it as communal greens or patches of grass between and around homes. Though full of potential, these spaces can fall into disuse, becoming expensive and anti-social. Could new management arrangements help give them a fresh lease of life?
Housing associations, despite the diversity of sites they own and communities they house, often face similar problems when managing their open space:
- Maintaining housing associations’ green space can be an expensive obligation.
- Expensive maintenance typically provides no return in income, and minimal return in environmental, economic or social benefits.
- Undermanaged green spaces often become sites of anti-social behaviour, leading some residents to feel alienated or intimidated, and breaking down community cohesion.
- When spaces are disused and management responsibilities are carried out without residents’ involvement, communities can feel little ‘ownership’ over spaces near to their homes.
- If uncared for, these areas can also become sites of vandalism and littering, diminishing quality of life for residents and incurring costs for housing associations.
- Anti-vandalism and maintenance costs in turn create greater living costs for residents.
Soha Housing, a social landlord managing 6000 homes in Oxfordshire, met these challenges around green space by helping to form the Berinsfield Community Business (BCB), a grounds maintenance social enterprise.
BCB work to improve the quality of Soha’s green spaces and estates, maintaining clean, appealing open space for vulnerable and general needs residents. They employ and train Soha residents to do this work. As a distinct business from Soha Housing, BCB are able to work for other clients, developing new income streams and opportunities that feed back into their social purpose.
This partnership has helped to complete Soha’s social, economic and environmental objectives at reduced cost: tenant satisfaction has improved, crime and anti-social behaviour has reduced, livelihoods have been created for tenants, enabling them to make rent and lease-holding residents’ expenses for grounds maintenance have dropped. It is argued that, with greater connection to, and pride in, local green space, residents will take better care of their properties.
There is much housing association green space that can become undermanaged, and feel like a liability that sits on the books. Though volunteering schemes can improve these spaces significantly, community enterprises such as BCB provide more robust, sustainable solutions where land becomes truly productive: employing local people, boosting local communities, economies and environmental integrity.
You can read our guide or tips for landowners on the all the potential benefits shared management arrangements can produce, or contact us if you would like to have a chat about how we can tailor this approach to you.