Paisley Housing Association – nurturing the neighbourhoods
From renovations to gala days, Paisley Housing Association does it all. Now they, and their five collaborating organisations, are giving you a chance to get involved.
For most people, housing associations are like gravity in the sense that you know they’re there, but you don’t necessarily understand the finer details of how they work.
For Kathleen McCutcheon, her work at the PHA and that of the other associations that they regularly liaise with can be defined in one sentence – “I didn’t know you did all that”.
“We work as part of six community-based associations,” Kathleen revealed at Paisley Housing Association’s new centrally located offices on Lawn Street.
“Five of which are in Renfrewshire and the other is in East Renfrewshire. They are Barrhead, Linstone, Williamsburgh, Bridgewater, Ferguslie and ourselves.
“People would probably be surprised by the things we do,” she continued. “Over the course of lockdown and afterwards, we’ve done a lot in regards to redistributing cash and other necessities back into the community, whether that’d be bikes, food, phones, furniture, fuel top-ups or anything in between.
“In addition, we place a real focus on wellness and we’re now starting to take in Ukrainian refugees and establishing the support that we can provide for them as they get settled here.
“We all see ourselves as community anchors in that we’re the base, but we do a lot of satellite projects. We’ll do DIY projects, food preparation classes in Williamsburgh. Basically, if you name it, we do it!”
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A local employer and a charity all in one, Paisley and its fellow associations provide affordable rent to between 6-7,000 people and tenants at any one time.
Given that everything they do either comes through the medium of funding or from the rents of their tenants, each budget, initiative or gala day that a housing association proceeds with has been vetted by a board of volunteers.
Tasked with holding them to account, these boards are often looking for new members and as Kathleen explains, it’s a position which comes with more benefits than ever without becoming a substantial drain on your weekly schedule.
“FLAIR (Federation of Local Housing Associations in Renfrewshire & East Renfrewshire) Academy started out about three years ago and it was a product of us really thinking about what the incentives to become a board member are,” she said of their training scheme for new board members.
“The academy consists of nine one-hour sessions from different trainers which are all focused on different aspects of what you’ll be doing. Thankfully, we run two blocks per year, which means that if you can’t make all of them successively, you can catch up on what you missed at another point.
“Due to the fact that we always had to induct new members and they’d often be sent on training sessions to the likes of Glasgow, we thought ‘why don’t we just pool our resources and do it collectively?’ Not only as it’s cheaper, but because it makes it more accessible. There’s no formal accreditation,” she details, “but it’ll give you a great insight into the housing sector.
“For a lot of people, they choose to buddy up with a housing association of their choice and go along to their board meetings as an observer. From there, they fill out a form and after that, we look at which housing associations really need board members at any given time.
“For kids these days, they need to have so much on their CV to be competitive,” Kathleen said of the potential benefits that joining a board could have on a young person’s career prospects.
“You need to show all the traits even before you get to university. So, this is something that isn’t hugely time-consuming, but they won’t get that experience anywhere else.
“From that experience, they can say that they’ve worked in a team, that they have read, interpreted and made decisions based on what they’ve learned and a whole host of other transferable skills. It’s something to talk about, it might make employers think ‘oh, they’ve got something about them’. But above all, we want them to be as diverse as possible and we’re happy to have people from their twenties to their eighties.”
From tenement rehab across five closes in Orchard Street to doing whatever they can to support their tenants in terms of both their mental and physical wellbeing, it’s clear that this contingent of housing associations have the interests of those who occupy their properties at heart.
What’s more, they’re actively looking for people from the community to take an active role in the process and ensure that they’re doing the best job that they possibly can. All the while, learning skills and accruing knowledge that could stand them in good stead in their own personal and professional lives.
If you’d like to learn more about Paisley Housing Association or how to join a housing association board, visit the website.