The Gypsy, Romany, and Traveller communities remain too often misunderstood, marginalised, and even maligned.
Local authorities have always played a key role in managing the complex landscape of providing housing and services for these communities, while also balancing the need to discharge enforcement duties and respond to public and political pressures which can arise within the settled community.
Where significant problems arise, the costs can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds for a local authority in any given year.
But where high-quality sites are provided for the Gypsy, Romany, and Traveller (GRT) communities, and managed effectively, there is a wealth of evidence about better outcomes for residents, positive community relations and the avoidance of taxpayer costs.
Quite simply, providing good social housing for this distinct demographic delivers the triple bottom line of social, environmental, and financial impact.
Delivering good housing for Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities is also a moral imperative, in addressing significant health and inequality gaps which have widened further during the pandemic.
While there are undoubted challenges, help is at hand through a new guide to delivering sites, produced by a group of specialist housing associations that came together to share ideas and support those wanting and needing to address unmet housing need, or unsuitable existing provision.
‘Places we’re proud of’ is designed as an easy-to-read introduction to what we think works, with examples of how successful sites have been delivered elsewhere.
It has already sparked interest from local authorities, as well as the Scottish Government, which has a new £20 million GRT housing investment programme running at the moment.
Members of our group and I have shared development appraisals, site profiles and site management insight with more than 20 councils in the past year.
My own organisation is about to develop a new site with a Midlands council, is working up a proposal with another, and advising a third.
Our message is that while delivering sites might not be easy, we are absolutely here to help you.