It's disturbing that there's been an increase in stigmatisation of social tenants.

We’ve endured difficult times over the last few years with the continued assault against Social Housing and its tenants; Austerity, the Bedroom Tax, Rent Reduction, Universal Credit and  wholesale cuts to tenant engagement have all taken their toll but perhaps the most disturbing has been the increasing stigmatisation of social tenants.

We have become, to many, a social pariah and ‘tenant bashing’ has become normalised in much of the mainstream media. Little wonder that the last few years, have seen conference somewhat subdued – no more!

This year’s National Tenant Conference echoed with a genuine buzz of optimism. Engagement seems to be back on the political agenda. The Green Paper has highlighted the need for a stronger tenant voice and tougher regulation to enable the empowerment of tenants.

Tpas led the way opening proceedings with five tenants sharing their stories. They inspired us all. The session reminded us that there are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things in social housing. There is surely no better way to challenge the stigma surrounding social tenants than telling their stories about the difference they make to lives and communities.

No one chooses to be poor. It happens by accident of birth, lack of opportunity, illness, redundancy, death, relationship breakdown and a myriad of other reasons - it can happen to anyone! We tenants need to find our voice and challenge the appalling wrongs done to us by the media and sadly, on occassion by our own landlords. Grenfell was a terrible reminder of that.

Polly Neate, of Shelter, delivered a sobering keynote speech reminding us that regardless of how vilified we have become we are still better placed than 1.2 million people on waiting lists.

Yet, despite the massive need for social housing government policy has meant that a fraction of the homes being developed are for social rent. Access to a safe, decent and affordable home is our right not a privilege nor should it be a lottery. Collectively, tenants must hold housing providers to account – there is much more at stake here than just landlords’ balance sheets. 

The crux of every decision should meet their social purpose and have tenants’ best interests at heart.

Tpas has proved itself uniquely placed to bring tenants together, with housing professionals, to learn from each other and to amplify our voice. And shout loud we must!

Adele Rae