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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 07:16 GMT
Regeneration lectures start at home
Dr Peter Williams
Dr Peter Williams is to discuss social housing
The series of BBC Wales Lectures is to be launched by Dr Peter Williams, deputy director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

His talk, Regenerating our Communities - Are Community Mutuals the answer?, will exame the pros and cons of a new form of social housing, the community model.

People can read a synopsis of his views on this issue below, and email their comments to him on:

Regenerating communities is not easy and the search is always on to find how to do it

Dr Peter Williams

The lecture is being held on Thursday 24 January at Cardiff University and members of the public can apply for tickets to attend.

Dr Williams has had a long involvement with housing policy and practice in the UK and abroad and from 1999 to 2001 he was a member of the DETR Housing Sounding Board, an advisory group for the Minister of Housing.

In this inaugural lecture, he will aim to set out the broad scope of the regeneration agenda and the potential role of the Community Mutual model for the development of social housing in Wales.

It will also look at the demands which are now being placed on the Welsh Assembly, local government and local communities to really engage in regeneration as part of taking Wales forward in the 21st Century.

Peter Williams
Peter Williams is the inaugural speaker

"Regenerating communities is not easy and the search is always on to find how to do it," said Dr Williams.

"There have been many partial successes and quite a lot of failures, especially when viewed over the longer term, but central to it are questions of work and homes.

"Re-invigorating local economy will probably always be the priority but providing high quality affordable homes will never be far from the top.

"The 'community mutual' concept is being developed in Wales as an idea which might help produce better homes, stronger communities and a positive future.

A community mutual would be the organisation to which a local authority would transfer its housing stock and through which substantial home improvement and development would take place.

"But it does not end there. Physical improvement is only part of the process.

"Re-engaging the community and linking to it economic regeneration are also part of the vision. Can it deliver?

"Alone it cannot. In reality, the community mutual is only part of a wider process that is not yet in place (or even in some minds!) and in this BBC Lecture I will aim to set out the broad scope of the regeneration agenda, the potential role of the community mutual model and the demands which are now being placed upon the National Assembly for Wales, local government and local communities to really engage in regeneration as part of taking Wales forward in the 21st Century."

The discussion on Regenerating Our Communities - are Community Mutuals the answer? will take place at 1815 GMT on Thursday 24 January 2002 in Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University, King Edward VII Avenue, Cathays Park, Cardiff

For tickets contact Shelagh Lloyd, The Regeneration Institute, Cardiff University, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA.

Email: tel: 029 20 87 6412

Below is a copy of an article Dr Peter Williams has written on the theme of his talk.

Regenerating our communities; are community mutuals the answer?

Regeneration has been on the Welsh agenda for decades.

There are many communities where successive central and local government driven regeneration programmes have been underway since the 1940s and where we are still 'regenerating'.

This suggests how much there is to do, how complex the process is and how the 'target' keeps moving.

There have been both successes and failures.

Frustratingly given the number of years regeneration has been on the agenda we can still identify weaknesses in terms of the way initiatives have been developed.

Housing stock

We seem to have been poor at learning lessons and we still have a number of problems including;

(a) failing to achieve effective co-ordination between programmes and organisations

(b) the dominance of the 'top down' approach

(c) the lack of partnership between agencies and local communities

(d) the dominance of public sector investment and limited private sector investment

New resources

Local authority housing stock transfer provides an opportunity here.

Stock transfer has been opposed by unions, some local authorities and some tenants, at times for questionable motives.

While there are aspects of transfer which can be improved the fact is over 100 local authorities in England have done it, levering new resources to improve homes and bringing identifiable and valued benefits to tenants as a whole.

The community mutual housing association model seeks to address one perceived weakness in stock transfer.

This is the accountability of the new association to the local community.

Mutual model

Creating a mutually member owned association may address this and the hope is that with the development of the community mutual option there may be more appetite for stock transfer in Wales.

In my view, some of the perceived weaknesses of existing stock transfer associations could be addressed without creating a mutual model.

Moreover, the mutual model does pose some risks regarding ensuring a Board with the right skills and with long term stability and the demands it may pose in terms of the priorities for the association, i.e., is it community empowerment or housing improvement? Can it be both?

But there is also the question of the wider regeneration agenda.

For me a key weakness of some stock transfer organisations has been their focus once they are up and running and have delivered most or all of what they have promised to tenants.

Challenging agenda

As the organisations mature and become financially stronger they have choices about future strategy and this has led to geographical expansion and diversification.

I would like to see a much stronger focus on local regeneration as well as community development.

Given the history of regeneration in Wales and the move towards stock transfer this is an opportunity which cannot be missed.

I believe that alongside stock improvement, area regeneration must be a key priority.

In structuring the mutual this aspect must be taken on board and a vehicle must be created to make best use of the assets being transferred, maximising the potential to lever in other public and private funds.

This is a challenging agenda which will make demands on members, the Board and staff and the agencies they work with.

Other views

There is a danger of trying to do too much, too quickly and this must be borne in mind. Ambition must be viewed alongside risks, rewards, competencies and responsibilities.

Can this be delivered? Do we have the right skills and structures? Can NAW facilitate such a development?

What can the Universities do to help? There are many questions to consider.

Going forward, better housing and regenerated areas can make a considerable contribution to the regeneration of Wales as a whole and the securing of its competitive future in a global economy.

Community mutuals are not the answer but part of the answer.

We need to be clear what they can do and what else needs to be done?

I have set out some of my personal views.

I will air these and more in the lecture.

I would welcome hearing other views and being part of a wider debate. But we cannot talk for too long.

Action is needed!

Email your comments to Dr Williams on:

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