TV star Joanna Lumley is just one of many high profile supporters of the fight to save six community centres which may possibly be sold by Hyde Housing, one of London’s biggest housing associations. This comes at a time when central government funding for local councils and housing associations is under significant pressure and cost savings need to be found. The six community centres at risk are located in Stockwell, Kennington, Brent and Islington and offer vital services for the local population.
Ever since Hyde Housing announced a review of its investment in local community centres there have been concerns about possible demolition or sales to property development companies. It may surprise many people to learn that housing associations are involved in direct investment in community centres but this is part of the overall relationship with the local population. However, it is worth noting that the main focus of a housing association is to provide houses to those struggling to find accommodation.
There is now a high profile campaign to save the six community centres at risk although in reality a successful campaign would mean much-needed funds taken away from the focal housing association service. Whatever decision taken by Hyde Housing there will be no real winners because reduced funding is the main problem?
Austerity measures hitting home
This high profile issue regarding community centres financed by Hyde Housing is not an isolated occurrence in the UK. The fact that a number of high profile celebrities have taken up this case might prompt a rethink by Hyde Housing, or an alternative funding arrangement, but this does not necessarily mean a similar outcome in other areas of the country. Austerity is the main issue regarding funding for community developments with there is also increased demand for much sought-after development land in London.
In a world where money talks it is unfortunate that groups such as Hyde Housing are often found sitting on valuable property with potential for redevelopment. At some point, especially with austerity kicking in, the main housing association business will require further finance to continue. So, while it is very tough on the local community to lose their community centres, do housing association such as Hyde Housing also have an obligation to maximise their assets?
Local services under pressure
In years gone by local councils would have funded community centres up and down the UK offering valuable services to the local community. The situation has changed dramatically over the years with many housing associations, funded by local authorities and central government, taking on community centres. As central government puts the squeeze on local authorities this is having a major impact upon funding for housing associations and therefore the potential sale of land for redevelopment will become a recurring issue.
This particular campaign has attracted significant celebrity interest and there is already talk of legal challenges through the courts. It will be interesting to see a legal ruling on the obligation of housing associations to maintain community centres and community services. However, there are serious concerns that campaigners may win this battle but eventually lose the war.