February saw the launch of the Benefit to Society campaign in the House of Commons, which seeks to change the way that social housing is perceived in Britain. Its intention is to promote the many positives of social housing and give a voice to tenants fed up with being stigmatised. The campaign is lobbying MPs and media outlets to demand that they stick to the facts, without falling back onto tired stereotypes when they talk about social housing.
For a long time now it has been commonplace to see social housing presented in a pretty grim light, not helped by ‘poverty porn’ programmes like Benefits Street and Council House Crack Down. Housing that originated as an exciting and revolutionary reform of the Victorian slums, as well as a hard-earned reward for working families after the Wars, is often now presented only as a last resort for the desperate – or an easy ride for the lazy and workshy. We know that this is nonsense, but the Benefit to Society campaign’s research showed that a whopping 72% of the public over-estimate the number of unemployed people living in social housing. In reality it’s only 7%, not much above the national average. The research also showed that the public perception of social housing is that it is generally poor quality and badly managed.
This is all hugely at odds with what most tenants actually feel about their communities, with most saying they don’t recognise the picture painted of them on TV and by politicians. What they most valued about their housing was their security of tenure and the maintenance services they received; particularly when compared to the alternatives on offer in the private rented sector. 90% of social housing tenants feel that they are unfairly represented by the media and many say that they have felt looked down on or embarrassed because of their tenure type in the past. In particular, many worry that this will have a negative impact on how their children feel about themselves as they grow up.
Radian is whole-heartedly behind the work of the Benefit to Society campaign to bring about a fairer and more reasoned attitude to social housing. Over four million households live in social housing and it is not fair that they be demonised because of the perceived behaviours of a small minority. No one should be judged because of the type of tenure that they live in, especially now when demand for safe, secure and affordable accommodation is higher than ever.
Click here to find out more about the campaign and we hope you will join us in pledging your support and bringing us a step closer to ending the stigma.