How we’re perceived now

How do we transform perceptions of housing associations?

That’s the question over 300 housing association chief executives, staff and board members asked themselves after Federation research showed politicians don’t always see housing associations in the way we see ourselves.

We interviewed politicians, media and think tanks from across the political spectrum to find out what they think of housing associations.

Here’s what they said:

1. Housing associations are being defined by others rather than themselves

Most interviewees felt the sector was bad at defining itself and in the absence of a strong story, other narratives can thrive – particularly around efficiency, innovation and contribution to new supply.

2. The sector has no instinctive political allies - but both right and left are there to be won over

Many Conservative politicians do not feel a close affinity with the sector but all felt it had an important role to play in meeting housing need. Labour politicians were more likely to have a positive view of housing associations but they are not currently acting as strong advocates for the sector.

3. For housing associations, familiarity breeds appreciation, not contempt

On all sides of the political spectrum, the stakeholders who interact most with housing associations tend to like them more, even though they are also more likely to have had negative experiences as well as positive. Engaging and telling our story works.

4. Everyone wants to see the sector build more homes

All interviewees felt housing should be a top government priority and saw housing associations as central to delivering more homes. Conservatives were more likely to underestimate how much housing associations build than Labour, but all groups felt that increasing housing supply was the prime function of the sector.

5. Politicians, opinion formers and the media share our ambition to be more innovative and dynamic

Calls for housing associations to set out our shared vision and take a greater leadership role on housing issues came from across the board, echoing our own drive for more innovation, dynamism and creativity. And we’re ready to respond to these calls by articulating and implementing Ambition to Deliver.

For more information on the findings of our audit, please contact James Green.