Teaming up with local charities offers a host of opportunities for cash-strapped housing associations, says Craig Anderson, CEO of the Furniture Re-use Network (FRN).
There is a long tradition of the social housing sector collaborating with local agencies and partners to improve people’s lives. The provision of low cost, re-used household items forms part of this tradition. Collaboration between housing associations and furniture re-use organisations has multiple benefits to all parties including tenants by enabling them to maximise their limited income in order to build and sustain a warm, secure and comfortable home.
Experience in practice
Good quality items from households and other sources that no longer need them can be distributed to families and individuals in need. This system delivers multiple benefits to the community, including reducing social and financial exclusion as well as extending product life and lowering carbon emissions and landfill.
A fantastic example of what can be achieved when a housing association and a re-use charity work together is the work of Shropshire-based charity Reviive and its partnership with the Wrekin Housing Group in 2013. In addition to the charity’s goals to help long-term unemployed people get back into work as well as protecting the environment by maximising the life of household products through re-use and recycling.
“We are able to save furniture and household items from ending up in landfill and pass them on to people on low incomes”
Through working with the Wrekin Housing Trust, who have 12,000 properties, Reviive supports the local community, giving employment and skills opportunities and providing low cost furniture to those in need.
The partnership enables Wrekin Housing Trust to save money on waste removal costs and it also gets to help its partner Reviive with their environmental and ethical aims. Kevin Diss, Commercial Business Development Manager at Reviive explained the charity clears out empty properties with the aim to re-use the household items left behind by selling them at ‘very reasonable prices’ to tenants or the general public. He said: “Our tenants even get a further generous discount off any item they wish to purchase. What we can’t re-use we recycle as much as we can to avoid sending things to landfill.”
He added: “We have to be flexible as often the clear-outs s are short notice, and re-let time is critical, but it’s a fantastic win-win for both organisations. We are able to save furniture and household items from ending up in landfill and pass them on to people on low incomes.”
Furniture re-use charities also support the housing associations’ drive for sustainable communities and social and financial inclusion
In a recent move to further assist cash-strapped tenants, Reviive teamed up with a local Credit Union that can provide low cost loans to those unable to afford the initial outlay to purchase furniture and white goods.
As well as providing affordable furniture for tenants, furniture re-use organisations offer excellent value for money for housing associations. These organisations strive to improve the skills base of the local community by presenting volunteering, employment and work-based training opportunities, often supporting and nurturing vulnerable adults. That way furniture re-use charities also support the housing associations’ drive for sustainable communities and social and financial inclusion.
Minimising their environmental impact is an important objective for most housing associations, but maximising re-use generally is not a fundamental goal in itself, or a principle advantage which furniture re-use charities promote. It is therefore essential to demonstrate the wider benefits that this type of working arrangement can deliver.
Housing associations are currently facing some serious economic and social pressures, which a re-use organisation can ease through a host of services. Engaging directly with local organisations to develop trust, demonstrate their capabilities and build a foundation for an expansion in complementary services in the future is essential for a stronger local community.
To find and contact a local furniture re-use organisation, visit http://www.frn.org.uk/donate