Tenant View: My feelings about the Social Housing Green Paper
We invited Dawn Tibble, an involved tenant with Colchester Borough Homes to tell us her first impressions of the Social Housing Green Paper.
Having read the much anticipated green paper my feelings were mixed. Personally I found it very patronising for a minister to suggest that opportunities must be open to anyone living in social housing. Aren't they already? It is not the tenants that need reminding of how stigma affects lives, It's the judgemental people who have been led to believe that social housing tenants are ALL like the people of channel 5 Benefits Street programme.
It should not matter whether you own your own home or not to be a valuable member of society. The Tory Government must get the doctrine of home ownership out of the media. For eight years the Government has been pushing for home ownership, that your status relies on home ownership, that your lifestyle is better, your job prospects better. When in reality most home owners never own their home and are under constant stress about losing it. The government might not even be aware that some people have no interest in getting into a mortgage debt that makes your home insecure. Although I suspect for the banks and economy it would look good on paper.
Social housing has been valued by its tenants as a place to call home, that is until this gov changed the housing act. You get charged if you have an extra room, children now have to share a bedroom, the tenancies are fixed between two and five years and if you do have a secure tenancy and want to downsize you might lose this because the secure tenancy stays with the house and not the tenant. Although the problem with downsizing is 'there is nothing to downsize into'. So far the building of social housing has been pitiful and private contractors are rewarded with tax breaks if they build to rent. So what happened to the last housing debarcle that forced social housing providers to sell off high value properties to cope with the new right to buy for housing association properties? What happened to learning from mistakes of the past when Mrs Thatcher set off the right to buy frenzy which has left this country with a huge shortfall of social housing?
Giving all tenants a voice is paramount to ensure homes are safe and liveable. But tenants also give fantastic advice, clarity, scrutiny, information and support through being member of Tpas and being invited to be part of scrutiny groups and task and finish groups. Although many social landlords fail to mention to their tenants that this is available and that their voice does actually make a difference. We have seen from past disasters like Grenfell that ignoring tenants is a huge mistake.
Celebrating communities has to go further than a reward system for 'best neighbourhoods'. The 'be good and get a party' scheme is a tad like 'if you are good you'll get a sweetie at the end of the day'. The minister might not be aware that social housing tenants have pride and every neighbourhood would be best if there is equality and deep rooted values of acceptance, mutual respect and tolerance.
No house or landlord can manage that, it is up to the law, education and personal behaviour.
In fact the most arrogant unaccepting people I've ever met are living in very expensive houses in very elite parishes.
No matter what type of house you live in or where if the individual does not have their basic needs met; security, love, food, warmth, shelter and support; then opportunities will always be missed due to mental health issues brought on by poverty, alienation, racism, bigotry and abuse.
It is as if the Conservative Government has never met a social housing tenant. Maybe they haven't?
Throughout the country ALL landlords and builders have a moral duty to make sure the homes they build or rent are fit for use, are affordable and safe, haven't they? And yet it was the same political party who refused to make sure private tenancies are regulated in regards being fit for human habitation.
The current minister might have a pang of sympathy and wants to be seen doing something but the Green Paper appears to be nothing but soundbites. What I would have like to read is that a huge drive for a more eclectic range of social housing is going to be built so people have a choice whether to own or to rent (affordable rent!!!).
Or we could go back to the 1700s and scrap the Enclosures Act and give back to the peasants all the land the lords stole off them.