I was pleased to visit St George’s Crypt and York Street Practice in Leeds to launch our Rough Sleeping Strategy earlier this month, a comprehensive plan to end rough sleeping by 2027. They are two institutions that are doing great work supporting vulnerable people get off the streets. We have also launched our Social Housing Green Paper which kicked off a national conversation about issues that matter most to social housing residents.
The culture surrounding social housing needs urgent work. More has to be done to address the stigma experienced by residents, and the nature of the relationship which has resulted between tenant and landlord. These issues are regularly raised by my constituents during the surgeries I hold in Selby and Ainsty.
The Green Paper reflects the importance we place on social housing and signals a seismic shift across Whitehall to tackle issues facing people living in social housing.
Almost 1,000 residents in social housing from across the country attended our engagement events, shaping this document, with 7,000 more commenting online. These events enabled the people at the receiving end of services to have their say, providing an invaluable insight. Their views are at the heart of our proposals to make social housing fit for the future.
But we will do more. From a £9bn investment in the affordable homes programme, to a £5bn investment in housing infrastructure, the Government is not pulling any punches to fix the failings in our housing market and hit our target of building 300,000 homes a year, by the mid 2020s.
At the start of July, we announced eight strategic partnerships between ambitious housing associations and Homes England, including in the Yorkshire area. In total these will deliver an additional 14,280 new affordable homes by March 2022, which wouldn’t have been built otherwise.
But beyond this we also need to confront the institutional indifference experienced by social housing residents across the country. Where communities can thrive free of stigma, social tenants are treated with respect and achieve the stability they need to build a better life.
An excellent example of social housing that promotes equality and diversity to tackle stigma can be found in the heart of Yorkshire. The Derwenthorpe housing development, two miles from York city centre, has won deserved awards for its community approach to affordable housing and is a clear example of how smart design can tackle social housing stigma head on. Affordable homes across Derwenthorpe are designed to the same standard, appearance and location regardless of whether they are rented in the private or social sectors.
This innovative approach to community design is a clear case of a step in the right direction for creating an environment where social tenants don’t have to feel stigmatised for where they live.
Our Green Paper proposes a new approach to social housing, recasting relationships; reforms that will empower residents so their voices are heard and their landlords held to greater account, driving a higher quality of service.
We then go even further, recognising councils need all possible barriers removed to make the housing market work. To that end we’re giving local government greater financial flexibility and freedom to support a new generation of council housing. That’s why we are also looking into how money from Right to Buy sales is spent so councils can build the homes their communities need.
We are also reviewing how social housing regulation can be strengthened and the regulator given ‘sharper teeth’ to intervene where necessary. Standards for residents should be as important as financial viability, to make sure that they get the safe and secure homes they deserve.
Social housing should be aspirational and the Government wants to give social tenants every opportunity to get on the housing ladder. That’s why we’re proposing to make it easier for those in shared ownership to increase their equity. The message from this Green Paper is loud and clear, being a social housing tenant shouldn’t be a barrier to becoming a home owner. It shouldn’t mean you are treated with less respect and dignity. Social housing should be a springboard to a better life.
I am proud to be part of a Government that is helping make this a reality for people.
Nigel Adams is a Housing Minister. He’s also Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty.