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Social housing tenants call for an end to stigma 01/03/2018 Labelled as Tenants

Nine in ten (91%) social housing tenants say they are portrayed negatively by the media reveals a new report commissioned by the Benefit to Society campaign to explore the causes and impact of an increasing stigma around social housing.


The research report 'Overcoming the Stigma of Social Housing', is published as representatives from the ARCH Tenant Group came together with other social housing tenants in the House of Commons to launch a campaign to tackle negative stereotypes. The 'Benefit to Society' campaign calls on journalists, politicians and housing professionals to stop stigmatising people living in social housing. It is led by tenants and staff from thirty housing organisations, including housing associations, ALMOs, councils, tenant organisations and trade bodies including ARCH.


The report draws together findings from the LSE (London School of Economics & Political Science) research, using long-term government survey information together with new qualitative data from a tenant "think tank" on the topic of stigma and social housing. This is supplemented by new findings from public polling and a survey of 450 tenants.


Evidence shows that the British public overestimate the number of social hosing tenants who are unemployed by three times. This reinforces the fact that unjust and unfair, negative stereotypes of people in social housing do exist. Britons on average estimate that almost one in four (24%) of people living in social housing are unemployed, when in fact only one in fourteen (7%) are unemployed.


In announcing the Social Housing Green Paper the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the concerns of people in social housing are too often ignored and tenants are seen "less as people…and more as problems that needed to be managed."


Now tenants say they want to "set the record straight". 


This report by Professor Anne Power and Dr Bert Provan also finds that a decrease in numbers of social housing, together with changes in policy over many years, has led to the public considering social housing to be a 'last resort'. This is in stark contrast to the experience of the majority of tenants.


The British Social Attitudes survey of 2017, carried out by The National Centre for Social Research, shows that three quarters (75%) of people who live in social housing think they are good places to live. Among people who do not currently live in social housing, the main reasons for wanting to do so are the perception that social homes are cheaper to rent and that they are of good quality.


This stigma is harming people's lives. Many social housing tenants say they feel judged by where they live rather than who they are.


Professor Anne Power, co-author of the research report said:


"Social housing is a huge and undervalued asset. I have worked all of my adult life with social housing residents who fight to make where they live better. Tenants value their homes, their communities, and their landlords. They make huge contributions to society - often through community based activities. The challenge is that the gap in society has grown too wide. I hope this work will show how much we stand to gain by revaluing social housing and thereby closing the gap."


Leslie Channon, Campaign Organiser, tenant and Director of TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) , tenant engagement experts said:


"This research shows that people in social housing feel isolated and looked down on simply because of where they live. It's no surprise this is what the public think when we constantly see social housing portrayed in the media as somewhere to avoid, made of crumbling estates, riddled with crime, drugs and dangerous dogs. Politicians do little better with their language of 'sink estates'."


"The reality is there are almost four million households in social housing in Britain and most are comprised of people in work or retired, living in a home they are proud of. That's why we're launching a campaign to challenge the stigma and discrimination."


120 people with their local MPs met in in parliament to call on politicians to back the Benefit to Society campaign and ensure tenants receive fair press. You and your organisation can sign up and pledge your support on the campaign website's pledge page:


A social media campaign, promoting real stories and facts about social housing will run for two weeks from 28 February and campaigners say they aim to change the narrative around living in social housing.


For more information about the 'Benefit to Society' campaign visit the Benefit to Society website and follow the campaign on Twitter @2benefitsociety or using the hashtag #benefittosociety

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