PM to push for social housing reform amid ‘second-rate citizen’ stigma concern

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Theresa May is expected to warn too many politicians “look down” on social housing residents as she pushes for reform of the sector.

The Prime Minister will detail the Government’s plans for a £2 billion programme from 2022 which aims to give housing associations the chance to secure money for projects running from then until 2028/29.

Downing Street believes the approach would offer long-term certainty to the associations when it comes to planning and developing tens of thousands of affordable and social homes.

A housing graphic
(PA Graphics)

Mrs May, addressing the National Housing Federation Summit in London on Wednesday, also plans to focus on the “stigma” attached to social housing and insist tenants are “not second-rate citizens”.

The PM will say: “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“On the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.”

Mrs May will add: “We should never see social housing as something that need simply be ‘good enough’, nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better.

“Whether it is owned and managed by local authorities, TMOs (tenant management organisations) or housing associations, I want to see social housing that is so good people are proud to call it their home … our friends and neighbours who live in social housing are not second-rate citizens.”

Housing associations will be encouraged by Mrs May to change how tenants and society view social housing, and also to lead major developments themselves.

However, Labour warned Mrs May’s promises “fall far short” of what is needed for the sector.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “The reality is spending on new affordable homes has been slashed so the number of new social rented homes built last year fell to the lowest level since records began.

“If Conservative ministers are serious about fixing the housing crisis they should back Labour’s plans to build a million genuinely affordable homes, including the biggest council house-building programme for more than 30 years.”

The English housing survey 2016/17 reported that 3.9 million households, approximately nine million people, lived in the social rented sector – which was 17% of households in the country.

The survey added 10% rented from housing associations and 7% from local authorities.

By contrast, 20% of households were private rented and 63% owner-occupied.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, asked who Mrs May saw as the politicians who “look down” on social housing, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s more a sort of a greater public perception, sadly.”

Pressed further if there are Conservative politicians who take this view, Mr Brokenshire again referred to a “general stigma” which he said was a feeling among tenants who were consulted for a Government policy paper.

Mr Brokenshire said: “I think home ownership absolutely is a really core credo of what I believe and what the party believes, and I don’t think there’s this, almost, like, a false dichotomy of it being one thing or the other – social housing or actually seeing home ownership as well. I think we can do both.

“That is what our white paper around housing is intent on delivering, that we’re building more affordable homes but through Right to Buy, through other initiatives to get people on to the housing ladder to meet that ambition.”

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