Social housing should boost chances of working people, not create ghettos, Newham Mayor tells conference
The Mayor for Newham, Sir Robin Wales, speaking yesterday (22 June), lamented a welfare system that increased dependency and destroyed resilience and said that social housing should help people to help themselves.
Sir Robin told the delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) conference in Harrogate: “We have perpetuated a system that destroys the lives of our fellow citizens” and said that we had ignored the principle that “everyone should contribute”.
He reminded delegates that the John Hills report in 2007 found that half of tenants in social housing were not in employment and said that Newham was spending £5 million per year to get people into work. “That is how you build resilience”, he added. He cautioned, however, that it would take 25 years to reverse a situation where “all the poor people were housed together” and create more mixed communities.
In the same session Matt Oakley, head of enterprise, growth and social policy at the think tank Policy Exchange said that social housing was needed as a safety net for needy families, but also should help people in low paid work to progress and tackle the barriers in their lives.
He repeated the findings of recent poll that three quarters of the public believed that people should not receive a subsidy to live in places they cannot afford and urged housing organisations to sell houses in expensive areas and use the proceeds to build five or six homes elsewhere.
Diane Lee, Tenant Chair of Watford Community Housing Trust, said that tenants felt “got at” in the face of changes to social housing tenancies, and insisted: “It’s not our fault we live in a scarce resource”. She cautioned against fixed term tenancies and said that the need for stability was very important.
There was concern from all speakers over proposals for Affordable Rent. Matt Oakley believed it was “only feasible in the Eastern region, the South East and London”. Diane Lee said tenants “didn’t like it” and Sir Robin Wales cautioned that “the more we put the rents up, the less we’ll be helping [tenants] to help themselves.”