TALK TO A LONG-TERM RESIDENT ABOUT LIFE ON THEIR LONDON ESTATE AND CHANCES ARE THAT THEY WILL TELL THAT IT’S GONE DOWNHILL. WHY THE ANTISOCIAL SHADOW ON SOCIAL HOUSING?
Understanding the history and mindset of social housing estates is key to being effective in evangelism.
After the Second World War London’s greatest concentrations of poverty, crime, and violent offending were inner-city privately rented neighbourhoods. Think of large, decaying properties converted to multiple tiny bedsits.
By contrast, social housing provided homes for a broad cross-section of society. Council housing at the time tended to have higher rents and more affluent tenants, with many estates accommodating stable working-class communities, characterised by lower levels of crime.
Since then social housing has increasingly only been available to relatively worse-off households. With slum clearance and urban renewal the more affluent moved to owner occupation and the poorest households moving into social housing.
As the number of households in social housing has fallen, this shift has been significant. There has been a concentration of the number of social renting households on below-average incomes over the last fifty years.
In the last two decades, the number of jobs in London has grown by 45 per cent and the number of people by 27 per cent, but the number of homes by only 18 per cent.
All of this means increasing pressure on housing, social housing in particular. Most councils use a points system or banding system based on an individual’s or family’s needs to come to a decision on who will be offered accommodation.
Today in London, Islington council alone has 14,000 households on its housing register waiting to access social housing. Last year it let only 1,100 properties – less than half of them properties with more than one bedroom. Despite building more homes, even people in the greatest need face a delays of years before they get housed.
This has meant pressure to prioritise social housing allocations for those in the greatest need, and most going to people on low incomes.
In 1979 a substantial number of households in all but the highest income groups were in social housing, research by the Chartered Institute of Housing found. Last year, 30 per cent of households moving into social housing were homeless, and 63 per cent of social lettings in 2016 to 2017 were to the 20 per cent of households with the lowest incomes.
Residents that are homeless, those living in severely cramped conditions or those that have a serious or life-threatening medical condition made worse by their current housing are given priority.
The shortage of social homes has also played a fundamental part in changing the perception of estates, increasing the stigma around social housing and social renters.
Stigma impoverishes all areas of residents’ lives. Residents believe that they are economically disadvantaged and receive lower quality services as a result of stigma. There is also an emotional impact from living in a stigmatised area.
Into this complex mix Field Director with specalism in estates and seniors Terry Puttick says a vital aim on every estate is to give people confidence and skills to make changes to community life. ‘It's understanding the psyche of estates,’ he says. ‘One of the attitudes that you do find on estates is the feeling that system is stacked against us and actually life owes us a living. It's a great dynamic when you can reverse that and empower people.’