Stigma and Social Housing

On 8 July 2021, ARCH reported on the publication of a new report – Stigma and Social Housing in England – by Mercy Denedo (Durham University) and Amanze Ejiogu (University of Leicester). 

Post-1970 there has been an intensification and normalisation of the stigma surrounding social housing. The stigma in relation to social housing is an unfortunate reality of modern Britain, the reasons for which are multi-faceted. It is created partly by government policy, which prioritises social housing for only the neediest. This has in turn led to a shortage of affordable homes to rent, also because of government cuts and a lack of funding. The media also often demonises social housing tenants and is left un-challenged.  

There is a growing awareness among housing associations and local councils for understanding of the stigmatisation of their tenants. Many organisations have taken steps to retrain their staff on how to prevent stigmatisation of tenants and housing providers have made genuine attempts to give tenants a voice.  

From the 1980s councils were prevented from building new social housing. This led to a decline in social housing as waiting lists grew. There was an increase in social housing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but cuts were re-introduced due to the credit crunch. The effects of cuts and lack of funding for social housing has had a huge impact on the stigma surrounding social housing.  

For things to change there needs to be a number of issues addressed including the under-supply of affordable homes; letting policies which do not allow the housing of a wide range of low-income people; the lack of funding for vulnerable people and the media narrative which associates social housing with low ambition.  

If politicians want to put an end to stigma, then these are issues they must address.  

There needs to be an attempt to stop the stigma surrounding social housing but to successfully challenge this, there must be a collective effort from media, government, housing providers, tenants, and the public.   

The recommendations found in the report are as follows: 

Recommendations for the government: 

  • Government needs to adopt a rights-based approach to housing which views access to affordable housing as a fundamental human right.  
  • Politicians need to stop their use of stigmatising language in relation to social housing.  
  • Develop policy measures, which take a holistic approach to challenging stigma.  

Recommendations for the social housing sector:  

  • Creation of a strong tenant voice at national, regional, and local levels.  
  • Redesigning the regulatory and governance arrangements of social housing providers so that social housing providers more accountable to tenants.  

Recommendations for the media:  

  • A more balanced and fairer reporting of social housing. 

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