A BBC report stating that tenants of housing associations live on “sink estates” has prompted a strong response from residents and landlords.
The BBC yesterday published a news report in which it said: “Those who couldn’t afford to buy [their home through Right to Buy] were left in sink estates run by housing associations.”
The reporting as fact that housing association schemes are ‘sink estates’ has angered a lot of social housing tenants and providers, who saw it as the latest example of the media stereotyping and stigmatising of those who rent from social landlords.
Benefit to Society, a campaign that challenges unfair narratives about social housing tenants, and Inside Housing both encouraged you to show how wrong the BBC is by tweeting about your pride in your homes.
You used the hashtags #notasinkestate and #notasinkhole.
Below is a selection of your tweets:
The view from the front door of one of our blocks in the centre of #Derby, which steps out into the neighbouring convent garden...— Beth Watson (@Watson_Beth_)
Definitely #notasinkestate !@2BenefitSociety @BBCNews pic.twitter.com/ehUXq86FYv
I was born and raised in council and social housing. It saved my life and rescued us when we were homeless. It provided a springboard for me to fulfil my ambitions. The only sink I saw was in our bathroom. @insidehousing #Notasinkestate #NHF18— Tom Murtha (@tomemurtha)
Proud to have been born & raised in council housing, loved the community around us, our neighbours, the pub & shops on the estate. It gave me a great start in life for me to fulfil my ambitions. The only sinks were the kitchen and bathroom @insidehousing #Notasinkestate #NHF18— Mark Simms (@marksimms3)
Proud to have been born & raised in council housing, loved the community around us, our neighbours, the pub & shops on the estate. It gave me a great start in life for me to fulfil my ambitions. The only sinks were the kitchen and bathroom @insidehousing #Notasinkestate #NHF18— Mark Simms (@marksimms3) September 20, 2018
Here’s our latest ‘estate’. Looks dreadful doesn’t it pic.twitter.com/GlEN6GI3NE— Tim Willcocks (@Timwillcocks)
And here is one of our "sinkhole estates". Get your house in order BBC and stop stigmatising social housing tenants pic.twitter.com/EYbquVks2m— Dave Richmond (@DaveRichmond_)
Finally a big shout out to digital storyteller John Popham, who first brought the BBC report to our attention.
Mr Popham complained to the BBC and received a response:
He then made a video showing how angry he was:
A group of 14 associations and their tenants have got together to challenge common narratives about social housing residents through a campaign called Benefit to Society.
As part of this, the campaign has produced a Fair Press for Tenants guide to help journalists portray social tenants and social housing fairly.
Inside Housing is backing the campaign and will help fact-check and scrutinise articles that portray tenants in a negative light.
Send examples of unfair, misleading or inaccurate reports about social housing tenants to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2015 we launched our Housing Myths website to tackle untrue narratives about social housing.
Here are just a few of the myths we busted at the time.
Myth 1: Social housing goes to single mums
Stories about single mothers believed to think the state “owes them a living” are commonplace. Columnists lament the death of ‘respectable families’ living in social housing and blame the ‘points-based’ allocation system, which they says allows single parents to slip ahead in the queue.
How true is this? While it is correct that councils have a legal duty to house homeless families, that does not mean that single mums make up the majority of the country’s housing estates.
According to CORE data (official social housing statistics), only 19% of social lets go to single parents in England.
Having children does not necessarily guarantee that families will receive a social home. Official figures show that at the end of 2014/15, 46,700 families with children or pregnant women were living in temporary accommodation in England.
Myth 2: Everyone receiving housing benefit is unemployed
Despite some of the headlines, the reality for housing benefit recipients is actually very different. An increasing number of working people are having to claim housing benefit to keep up with their rent payments.
According to the 2013/14 English Housing Survey, almost twice the proportion of working households received housing benefit in 2013/14 than in 2008/09.
In 2008/09, 19% of social renters in work received housing benefit, increasing to 32% in 2013/14. For working households in the private rented sector, the proportion increased from 7% to 14% over the same period.
Myth 3: Benefit fraud takes up a large chunk of the welfare bill
In 2013/14, £1.2bn of benefit was lost due to fraud. The total paid out in benefits was £164bn. So benefit fraud made up less than 1% of the overall welfare bill that year.
However, the total amount of cash lost due to fraud will be less than that, as a lot of the money will be recovered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Myth 4: Immigrants are taking social housing
The idea that large numbers of foreign nationals are taking up social tenancies has been a pervasive message and the tabloid press often calls for stronger curbs.
But are immigrants ‘jumping the queue’ and moving into social housing in their droves? The evidence would suggest not.
According to CORE data, about 90% of social lettings go to UK nationals. Six per cent are let to people inside the European Union and 4% go to those outside the EU.