Housing associations and co-operatives are independent, not-for-profit social enterprises - mostly charitable companies. They are part of the social housing sector and supply quality, affordable homes to those in need.
They can be large or small; rural or urban; providing for general or very specialised needs. Many of these organisations are based in communities; some cover a wide area. Some focus primarily on providing housing and support to people with particular needs, such as older people.
There are currently 158 housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland providing more than 280,000 homes and over 5,000 places in supported accommodation, plus factoring services for properties in private ownership, and shared equity housing.
The homes provided by housing associations and co-operatives are typically of high quality, with good energy efficiency standards which help to keep fuel bills low for tenants and meet the Scottish Government’s targets for tackling climate change.
Since the formation of the SFHA in 1975, we have seen the growth of housing associations and co-operatives from a handful of very small neighbourhood pockets of area renewal and sheltered housing for older people, to diverse provision and social enterprise in every part of the country. Associations maintain existing housing, whether they built it or acquired it from former owners in the public and private sectors, or factor tenemental properties on behalf of other owners.
Many associations see themselves as social enterprises and generate local initiatives around diverse activities from sponsoring activities to combat isolation, or promoting exercise with young and old people, diversion of anti-social behaviour, employment training, gardening and food production schemes or projects to help promote wellbeing and good health. The list is endless.
Economic benefit of housing investment
Our members add to the supply of new housing with investment support from the Scottish Government to produce affordable rents while providing employment opportunities. Housing associations and co-operatives are major Scottish employers, providing 11,000 full-time jobs. As social businesses, they also support apprenticeships in construction and maintenance, often in areas where jobs are needed.
How are housing associations funded?
Housing associations and co-operatives fund maintenance of existing houses mainly from income from rents, supplemented by borrowing and reserves. Rent is the key source of income and associations set their own rents annually in consultation with tenants. Housing association rents are typically low at around £70 per week, but a majority of tenants rely on Housing Benefit or, increasingly, Universal Credit housing support to pay these rents.
Building new affordable housing relies on investment from the Scottish Government, complemented by associations borrowing from the private sector.
The books of an association have to balance each year, so each one has to manage their income and expenditure and their reserves carefully to ensure they achieve their own ambitions for meeting need and remain viable in the long term.
The SFHA has good working relationships with all of the main political parties and meets regularly with prominent members of the UK and Scottish Governments and of the Parliaments of Scotland, the UK and Europe to promote our members’ views.
Whenever new legislation or government policy that affects our sector is proposed, once we have established our members’ position on the proposals, we carry out lobbying to challenge and re-shape them whenever it is necessary to do so. Recent examples of primary legislation on which SFHA successfully lobbied include the Scotland Act 2012, the Scotland Act 2016, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, the Public Bodies Joint Working (etc) (Scotland) Act 2014 and the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011. Upcoming work will cover the Office of National Statistics reclassification of RSLs and ongoing social security reform at both Holyrood and Westminster.
We aim to ensure that our policy priorities are determined directly by our members and respond to their interests. The SFHA represents members in many different ways. We are involved in all of the relevant government working groups, whether at ministerial level or with officials. We also regularly give written and oral evidence on behalf of members to various parliamentary committees, both at Holyrood and Westminster.
Promoting members’ work and campaigning on their behalf
The housing association and co-operative sector in Scotland is extremely diverse. This is what makes us unique and strong. We recognise and celebrate that diversity while representing our many commonalities. We are committed to promoting the excellent work that housing associations and co-operatives do across Scotland.
We use many different channels to communicate with different audiences, including magazines, e-news, press and social media.
We have continued to develop our social media engagement, and our strategic use of Facebook and Twitter goes from strength to strength and reaches a growing audience.
Any housing association or co-operative which is a registered association under the Housing Act 2010 may become a member of the SFHA. All such associations are welcome as members, regardless of composition, size or location.
We exist to represent all of our members and speak with a stronger collective voice. We promote and support the work that our members do, as well as positively influencing government by representing the interests of our members.
What we do for members
Organisations become members by paying an annual membership fee dependent on the stock size of the organisation.
To support our members, the SFHA engages in a number of activities, including:
Fees and how to join
If your housing association is not a member of the SFHA and you would like more details, please contact Alistair Rankine, Membership Engagement Co-ordinator, on 0141 567 6248 or email@example.com for a membership pack or to discuss in more detail.
Member fees are based on the number of units owned by the association.
Only housing associations can be members of the Federation.
However, other organisations are welcome to join our Associates scheme, which offers the chance to build relationships with our members and receive many other benefits. Please click the Our Associates tab for more information.
The OnBoard Service is provided by the SFHA to support member housing associations looking to recruit new governing body members, and to assist individuals looking to volunteer and make a positive contribution within their community.
Housing associations always need and welcome individuals with a broad range of experience, skills and personal qualities to add value to their work.
Interested in volunteering?
If you would like to find out more or register your interest as a potential volunteer board member, then all you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org
Register of volunteers
If you are an SFHA member, you can request the list of registered candidates by e-mailing email@example.com
This service is FREE of charge to SFHA members.