By Carl Davis
In their ground-breaking report Stigma and Social Housing in England, Dr Amanze Ejiogu and Dr Mercy Denedo looked at the nature and extent of the previously little understood stigmatisation of social housing.
Those involved in the social housing sector in England, including politicians and social landlords, contribute to the construction of stigma.
The media and other official bodies and institutions reinforce and perpetuate the culture. The report brought out how tenants themselves are impacted by, and experience, the stigma in all its forms, and explored the ways in which it is being challenged.
Their research offered a deeper understanding of how stigma results in people being judged negatively, and even actively discriminated against, simply because they rent their home from a social landlord or live in social housing.
Ejiogu and Denedo’s messages found echoes elsewhere. In its social housing green paper, government acknowledged that stigma was the most consistent theme raised by residents, resulting in strained relationships between tenants, residents, and their social landlords. Stigma was raised again in the recent Select Committee for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities report The Regulation of Social Housing.
Shortly after the publication of ‘Stigma and Social Housing in England‘, Amanze and Mercy presented an overview of their research at SHAC’s meeting ‘Not Welcome here: the Social Housing Stigma‘. During a lively discussion, they explained how social housing stigma intersected with other forms of social stigma such as those resulting from poverty, unemployment, benefit dependence, crime, mental ill-health, disabilities, race, and immigration status.
These intersections compound problems for social housing tenants and residents. SHAC members were subsequently invited to contribute to a consultation process as part of the way forward in challenging social housing stigma.
Amanze and Mercy have now published another report Stigma and Social Housing: Feedback on the Consultation Responses updating their original research and providing a deeper insight into social housing stigma. The report is accompanied by a separate Policy Briefing.
The authors highlight six key findings:
- Affordable social housing should be regarded as a fundamental right, i.e. that homes of a decent standard should be available to all households who chose to live in social housing.
- Residualization and shortage of social housing are key drivers of stigma. This is worsened by the governments housing policy emphasis on increasing home ownership.
- Politicians use stigmatizing language in relation to social housing to justify their housing and welfare policies. This stigmatizing narrative from politicians and policy makers is a key driver of the negative media narrative on social housing.
- The spread and intensity of stigma in social housing was linked to the absence of a strong tenant voice, which implies that political and media narratives were left unchallenged. There is therefore a need for a strong tenants’ voice at national, regional and local levels to challenge political and media narratives.
- Embedding tenants’ voices would be beneficial for housing providers in understanding the lived experience of their tenants, in challenging the stigma experienced by tenants and in promoting a co-designed culture for service deliveries.
- The regulatory system needs to be redesigned to put tenants, and the interests of tenants at the heart of regulation.
From these findings, Amanze and Mercy draw out eight recommendations which lay the responsibility for destigmatising social housing at the doors of government, other institutional policymakers, and the media.
The reports authors believe that everyone needs to play their part in the struggle for equality, and that we need to keep having honest conversations around the issues highlighted in both reports. Tenants and residents will need to play an organised role for parity to be fully realised however. As the report says:
Accountability mechanisms in operation currently include scrutiny panels, customer complaints mechanisms, and surveys and feedback channels to ensure tenants provide feedback. However, it is also evident that these accountability mechanisms are not fit for purpose in terms of making landlords accountable to tenants.Stigma and Social Housing: Feedback on the Consultation Responses (p55)
SHAC is committed to stamping out the stigma around social housing and to campaigning for safe affordable and accountable social housing for everyone and we will be looking at ways of working with others to collectively move forward on these issues.
5 September 2022
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