How we’re perceived now

We wanted to better understand decision makers’, opinion formers’ and the public’s views of housing associations. So we interviewed politicians, media and think tanks from across the political spectrum, and carried out polling of the general public.

Here’s what they said:

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

Most stakeholder 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 both 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 An Ambition to Deliver.

6. The public knows more about housing associations than we think – and what they know, they like

Although only one in ten people said they had a good understanding of what housing associations do, 91% have heard of us and over half of those people said they knew something about what we do. 52% of people polled believe we make a positive contribution to British society and only 6% said our contribution is negative. This is welcome and a huge opportunity.


If you’d like to find out more about the review, please contact James Green, Head of External Affairs at the National Housing Federation.


All public polling figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size 1,516 adults. Fieldwork undertaken 27–29 January 2016. Survey carried out online. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).