Posted by: Carl Brown08/06/2012
As should be obvious by now, the coalition government does not like social housing – at least in the old sense of secure, genuinely affordable housing.
Fixed-term tenancies and restrictions on benefit are designed to force insecurity on tenants. Lord David Freud has made it clear he wants social tenants to move home more often, as private renters tend to do.
The new right to buy policy will see social rented homes sold off and, if we are lucky, replaced by homes under the new ‘affordable’ rent policy. Homes will be let at higher rents, with no guarantee of security of tenure in all cases.
The bedroom tax, which will cut benefits for social tenants who have spare rooms, and moves to charge higher rents for tenants earning over a threshold, are further erosions of the idea that social housing is about providing a secure home for life.
This government is sending out a message that social housing is a privilege and should be used more efficiently as a short term measure to provide a springboard to those in need.
By implication, the government believes social housing currently is not seen by tenants as a privilege, is not used efficiently and is not a springboard.
A report published on Wednesday called Social mobility and social housing, published by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing, does its best to debunk this assumption.
The report, drawing on evidence from politicians, academics and social housing providers, finds there is no evidence that social housing itself prevents social mobility. Yes, social housing has a higher proportion of disadvantaged people than other tenures, but there is no evidence that ‘a’ causes ‘b’.
In fact, as contributors to the SMASH report have pointed, out a secure home can provide the foundation for people to thrive.
There are lessons for housing providers however. Landlords need to protect against single tenure communities, as these can lead to people living on certain estates being labelled and stigmatised, which can lead to less mobility.
Social housing itself is not the problem when it comes to the prevention of social mobility, but the way it is portrayed can lead to stigmatisation and that is the real issue.
Ministers need to be careful they do not add to this stigmatisation through their policies and rhetoric.
From Housing matters
Carl Brown looks at regulation, training, board members, pay and a host of other issues that impact the day to day running of social landlords