The aim of this article is to consider the most effective way of conceptualizing a sector that has undergone radical change: the UK voluntary housing sector. The article considers existing accounts of housing associations and classifies these into five analytically distinct groups: practitioners, historical accounts, managerialist approaches, network theorists and institutionalist accounts. The main contention is that each of these is limited in explanatory potential, primarily due to their neglect of culture. This article proposes a more detailed framework for developing an understanding of the substantial changes affecting housing associations since the 1980s; that offered by "grid-group cultural theory". The article provides longitudinal qualitative data obtained from London housing associations to support the contention that organizational change can most usefully be understood by reference to the cultural themes of hierarchy and individualism. The article contends that cultural theory offers the opportunity to develop a systematic analysis that accounts for institutional history and organizational differentiation.