As fundraisers, we are always looking to build better relationships and explore new fundraising opportunities. With this in mind, we (Dana, Cockpit Arts, and Jill, A New Direction) hosted a half-day event, supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, examining how to secure funding from the housing sector.
So what do we mean by the housing sector? Firstly, we can consider housing associations. Housing associations are not-for-profit organisations providing social housing for people in need. Their combined asset value is estimated at more than £100 billion - with profits re-invested into building new homes and service delivery for their community. In this manner, housing associations have become an important public sector commissioner, and an interesting partner and source of funding for arts organisations.
Alongside housing associations, there are private housing developers. Although perhaps more familiar than housing associations, there is significantly less activity between arts organisations and private housing developers.
The purpose of our training session was to understanding how arts organisations can build meaningful partnerships with both housing associations and housing developers. Below is a summary of key learning and discussion points from the event.
What opportunities are available through the housing sector?
To date, there has been limited intelligence gathered about how arts organisations are currently working with the housing associations and developers. Due to this limited discussion, we wanted to highlight the opportunities of the housing sector, for example:
- Demand for your work: housing associations have a responsibility to support their communities and many are interested in forming new partnerships with external suppliers. Likewise, through direct commissioning of activity, many housing associations have highlighted that they value creative activity in their communities, making partnerships with arts organisations a great option.
- The prominence of housing associations: There are over 1,700 registered providers of social housing. They may work nationally or extremely locally, and you should be able to find a housing association in your local area. Here’s a map of the head offices of housing associations in London to get started.
- Alignment of priorities: many housing associations have community investment teams and a community investment strategy. Your activity may support this strategy (e.g. supporting youth activities, reducing social isolation amongst older people), making housing associations a suitable partner for your work!
Likewise, whilst having less responsibility to invest in our communities, there are opportunities to secure funding from housing developers, including:
- Specific levies and funding paid to the local authority: as part of the planning process, developers may have to allocate funds to the provision of local infrastructure. These may be through Section 106 agreements or a Community Infrastructure Levy – with this funding supporting local infrastructure (including cultural assets). More information around these levies can be found here.
However, we were specifically interested in more innovative examples of arts organisations and housing developers working together. A great example of this is ‘Cultivate’ - a creative place-making project in the Nine Elms development, supported by a consortium of developers (including housing developers). This involves developers engaging directly with local curricula and arts education in the classroom. For more detail of this project see here.
How do I build a partnership with the housing sector?
Concerning housing associations, we discussed ‘community investment strategies’ - a document detailing each housing association’s priorities for their community and their residents. Discussion focused on ensuring the quality of arts activity (rather than tailoring your project to a housing association’s priorities).
We also highlighted existing commissioning opportunities published by housing associations as a great opportunity to get to know the housing sector (they are inviting you to approach them!). A great place to look for these opportunities is through your local voluntary and community sector programme, for example Hackney CVS.
Focusing again on housing developers, the group acknowledged that it was often harder to find the right person to speak to. Here, we discussed the role of the Head of Planning within local authorities, and how, through their relationship to the planning mechanism they may be a useful ‘gatekeeper’ when building relationships with housing developers.
Finally, we considered how arts organisations can position their offer to have relevance to planning processes and new developments. We commented that a great starting point is to look at the neighbourhood and local plans - documents which guide local planning permissions. If your offer is relevant to these plans (which developers must also respond to), then you may be able to find common ground with housing developers. More information around these plans can be found here.
Are there examples of good practice?
Our clearest outcome for the day was to provide practical examples of how arts organisations and the housing sector can work together. Below are a number of links to some great projects:
Creative Youth - a partnership project delivered by Ovalhouse and three housing associations to support young people’s cultural engagement. It is interesting to note here that three housing associations are working together – indicating the scale of partnerships that can be developed.
Royal Exchange Theatre and New Charter Group – this is a great evaluation report of a partnership project between an arts organisation and housing association in Manchester. Particularly interesting is the length of the project (three years) and how both partners agreed targets for the project.
Bentley Priory (see page 20) – an example of how a Section 106 agreement supported the development of a new museum in North West London.
We are in discussion with a number of housing associations to continue this learning, hopefully with a follow-up event. In the meantime – you can download the slides from the event here, and contact either myself or Dana with any ideas and questions, we’d be pleased to hear from you with ideas, opinions and advice.