New research confronts social housing stereotypes

New research confronts social housing stereotypes

The latest Real London Lives research report from the g15 group of London’s largest housing associations debunks the myth that social housing residents are characterised by high levels of benefit dependency, lone parenthood, long-term unemployment, limited aspiration, or that peoples’ access to social housing has been easy.

This first qualitative report from a three-year longitudinal study commissioned from the University of York demonstrates that housing association residents in London live lives of remarkable diversity. There is a strong commitment to work and high levels of aspiration, often despite difficult family circumstances and personal vulnerability.

The research, which will be presented at the House of Commons this afternoon by Dr Julie Rugg of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York, shows that:

  • Two thirds of residents who could reasonably be expected to work do. Despite this, however, three quarters were faring no better than ‘holding steady’ financially, given the nature of their work, hours and levels of pay
  • Being in work does not always guarantee financial security – many of the jobs taken by residents do not necessarily lead to a steady state financially
  • Contrary to common perceptions, migrants and single parents have no advantage in the allocation of housing
  • Respondents generally wait a long time to secure a social housing tenancy and, consequently, place a high value on it
  • Social housing tenancy was seen as supporting people through many of the challenges of life, protecting and strengthening the family unit, insulating against shocks which might otherwise lead to homelessness, and offering the opportunity to aspire and to achieve independence from benefits

Mark Rogers, CEO of Circle Housing and Deputy Chair of the g15, said: “The lazy stereotypes about social housing residents are simply wrong. There are people in professional careers, people working part time, people on zero hours contracts, some holding down two jobs, others in training, and some with no real prospect of employment due to physical or mental health problems.

“This research shows there are no easy answers for policy makers. Social housing residents are not ‘shirkers’, but a diverse, complex mix of ordinary households trying to get by and thrive in the best way they can. Together, we must use this evidence to make informed policy decisions and have a collective responsibility to ensure that the voices of this diverse community of Londoners are heard.”