I was at a workshop on building new homes and we got to a contentious point about what was being planned. I asked the room (mainly architects and regenerators) if they would take the same action / design they were planning if this was not social housing. There was silence in response because most recognised the likely answer was no. I then asked if they personally would live next door to or above the facility they were planning and again the answer was silence.
Why oh why do Councils and Housing providers still persist in designing things into new social housing and estates that they would not dream of placing on a ‘private’ estates? The answer clearly comes down the fact that this would result in a reduction in sale price whereas it is not seen as an issue in social housing. All too often there is still this unconscious perception that it does not matter with social housing because ‘they’ don’t own the property.
I grew up on a council estate and am all too familiar with the snobbery and patronising behaviour that can be directed at social housing. Anybody who knows me will be aware of my complete antipathy for murals and mosaics which were the universal panacea for all ‘deprivation’ ills between the 1970’s and 1990’s. ‘These poor people are deprived, lets give them a mural (and let them eat cake too)’. Don’t get me wrong I am big supporter of public art, but I’m talking quality and well thought out work, not something bad that marks you out as a ‘deprived’ area. How many murals and mosaics do you see on new ‘private’ estates …mmm… none! I like graffiti and a nice Gaudi mosaic but not as a marker and I mean you too Banksy.
All too often on mixed new build estates I hear the term ‘tenure blind’ but it never is, the quality of the work surfaces, tiles and finishes is always just that bit cheaper in the social units.
A few things to consider:
- Rent covers all costs in the same way as a mortgage does so stop treating different tenures differently
- If it is not alright where you live why do you think it will be alright in ‘social housing’
- By putting a different financial value on social housing you are also putting a lower social value
The Government’s Green Paper on Social Housing came out promising four main items. One of the main items was to tackle “the stigma felt by residents”, to which the paper proposed the solution of “celebrating thriving communities”. And yet, two key questions that the green paper failed to address were “what is the stigma” and “what divides are there within estates and communities?”
Many regeneration projects involve creating new private blocks to be sold on the estates in order to pay for “new and improved” social housing. When talking to residents on a soon to be regenerated estate in Camberwell, I heard that one of their biggest concerns was the potential divide between the new block of private and the old close-knit community. Whether finishes would be completed to the same standard; whether they would be locked out of communal facilities aligned with private block as they’d seen in other estates; whether they’d be made to feel lesser by those living on the same plot of land that they had currently inhabited exclusively . The residents were sure this would exist, the so-called poor doors.
When presented with initial plans, some residents went so far as to measure the split of open space overlooked by blocks for existing tenants and blocks for potential private owners. They found inequalities and stigma.
If this is what “stigma” is, then it comes as no surprise, evident differences in the standard of living due to the difference of social and private housing which occurs even within the same estate. But how have we found ourselves at this point, where people expect this level of blatant stigma? I’m a linguistics student, so I cannot help but be drawn to the language. The terms “council housing”, “social housing”, “council housing residents”. Compare to other countries such as Singapore where “government built” housing is abundant and sought after, their “public housing” and its residents are not termed under “council” or “social”. Instead the acronym HDB (housing development board) is used. And the people? Just residents. They are residents of Singapore who live in their homes.
The very policy of determining residents of council and social housing as that seeks to establish their identity according to their place in society. They are not homeowners. They are tenants of the council, the society. When we seek to establish who a person is according to where they live, how can stigma help but exist?
So, if the stigma can be felt and perceived by residents in their own homes and then physically seen in the differences between private and social in their estates or within how housing associations treat the divide, then the problem with stigma does not exist solely within the public’s perception but rather within the estates themselves. We have ingrained stigma through language and so many other policies into the very people that are meant to be helped. And to now differentiate between the “thriving communities” and the communities that are struggling as a solution only isolates the latter. It may help public perception, but does it actually help the residents?
Some small things for consideration:
- Insist that architects propose tenure blind designs and finishes on all projects. (This should be a given).
- Share the amenity space equally between tenure types and avoid gating or segregating
- More housing association and council led inclusive events to bring the communities together. Or at least research on “thriving” communities to see what may help mend broken communities.
- Most importantly: Not further isolating struggling and stigmatized communities as a solution for stigma.
Last Saturday a small enthusiastic group of resident volunteers from Kings Crescent Estate in Hackney, their newly re-elected ward councillors and some of their children made the short journey to the Redmond Community Centre at Woodberry Down. This was intended as fact-finding mission as we seek to inspire residents to look at ways in which the proposed community centre to be built in the final stages of the regeneration might bring a new vibrant social and community life to the area. The Redmond Centre is managed by the Manor House Development Trust (MDHT) which has operated for almost 11 years at Woodberry Down.
The lovely temporary Vince Murrain Centre is under-used which is a shame and a cause for concern for the Council who have committed to reprovide the facility. It will be removed to make way for the construction of the next phase and replaced in the ground floor of one of the new buildings.
We had struggled to get volunteers to attend but were grateful that a few people showed interest and gave up their morning. The first thing you notice about the Redmond Centre when you enter is the high ceiling, the next is the mass of activities taking place and being advertised. The map on the floor reminds you that you are just less than ten minutes walk away from Kings Crescent, not in another world. The children quickly realised that the more interesting feature of the Centre is not the building but the linked yet separate play area. The parents quickly realised that they could relax and absorb the presentation and tour feeling their children were occupied and safe.
As ever, Simon Donovan (CEO of the Trust) spoke passionately about the model he has established to ensure that the Centre is viable and how the business relies not just on a paid team; but draws volunteers from corporate and student organisations. The things that impressed residents in the tour were the small and simple things: the community fridge which has given away 300kg of food; the recycled wood used for the ceiling and shelving; the communal growing area; and the open design of the entrance.
Lessons learnt from the visit are:
- Community is more complex than just an Estate
- Linking indoor and outdoor community space works really well
- Running a centre has to be treated like running a business
- The building is just a platform for developing and implementing ideas
We hope to develop more ideas through visiting other centres and talking to more social enterprises over the coming months . Although Kings Crescent’s Community Centre won’t have the back-drop of the reservoirs to frame their environment, there is already a playable street to which will be added high quality landscaping. Just add Community.
Last year, for almost 6 months we tried to appoint a young person based in Hackney as a paid intern to gain experience of housing regeneration and community work. As we love our work, we naïvely thought that this position would attract plenty of school leavers or graduates keen to get some practical skills to add to their CV.
Careers in housing seem to be reached almost entirely by accident, yet the range of skills that can be acquired and the diversity of areas you can work in means that there are very, very few boring jobs in the sector. The sector needs to do more to attract bright compassionate people to want to work in housing and community work.
Eventually we recruited Lydia through word of mouth and it was a successful six month internship on both sides. Lydia enjoyed the wide range of tasks we gave her and the chance to follow her own interests too. We appreciated having an extra pair of hands. She has gone on to be successfully accepted onto a masters degree in Urban Regeneration and follow her dream to work abroad. Read her blog of December 2017 to learn more about how she felt.
This year we are busier than ever and hope to give another enthusiastic graduate or school leaver the chance to find out how fascinating working with a community as they face major changes to their homes and community can be. Our advertisement is on the Graduate Talent Poll website and www.indeed.com. We also will accept CVs via e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m coming to the end of a 6-month internship at Source Partnership, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has flown by. I know it’s such a cliché but I genuinely feel so lucky to have had this opportunity.
It hasn’t been your average 9-5 office work experience, photocopying and filing papers for other people, or constantly sat in front of a screen. My flatmate, after seeing me in my giant koala onesie arguing with an insurance broker on the phone for the third consecutive morning whilst he headed out to his tech company in his dry-cleaned suit, eventually asked me “what do you actually do?”. I still haven’t been able to answer his question properly.
Every single day has surprised me. From different estates, clients and colleagues with a range of backgrounds and expertise, the last six months have been unbelievably varied. Whilst my fellow graduates have spent their time training to be teachers or heading straight into the fiery world of international banking, I have been visiting people’s homes and neighbourhoods, and hearing residents’ stories. I have loved being part of these communities, even if it has just been temporarily.
I have seen more of London in the last six months, than in the other 3 years I spent at university here. Not only have I seen more of the different areas of London, but I have also been able to spend time with the diverse multi-cultural communities that make up this huge metropolis. My biggest take-away from this experience is that community is at the heart of housing and should be at the heart of planning, design and of course, regeneration, which has become such a dirty word in recent times, as these communities have often been systematically excluded or removed from this process.
I am fortunate to be finishing this placement with an even bigger passion for community work, housing, urban design and planning. I am so grateful to Source Partnership for supporting me in this exciting but daunting early stage of my career. I believe that anyone who works in design, architecture or planning or just cares about the world and the people who live in it should consider working in housing. To work in this sector is to be a part of something bigger than yourself, something exciting, and something fundamental to our well-being.
We are looking to appoint a Hackney based intern to assist our consultancy team to carry out a skills and training audit as part of a large regeneration project in London N4. This will be a paid position and could lead to permanent employment as a project worker for the right candidate.
The work will involve outreach and surveying up to 275 households via face to face interviewing, on-line and self-completion. There will be an opportunity for involvement in analysing the data and referring applicants to work based experience and training and employment providers.
The successful intern will be expected to work on their own initiative alongside a small consultant team and full induction training will be provided. The project take place between February and July 2017 with the possibility of leading to other work. This opportunity is ideal for somebody wanting to gain experience of community work and research techniques. We will be happy to provide references to other employers on completion of this short term contract.
The post will be sponsored by the regeneration developer Higgins Construction and you will be supported on site by Source Partnership Consulting Limited both companies are committed to the London living wage. Please send a CV or personal statement to email@example.com
My name is Jess Newcombe and I attend Kingsdale Foundation School. I decided to apply to do a week’s work experience as a housing consultant for Source Partnership in Hackney. Monday morning I didn’t have a clue of what to expect. I wasn’t sure whether I should be feeling optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming week. I’d never before been given the opportunity to have such a detailed in-sight into the work of a housing consultant and into regenerating an area.
I wasn’t sure about the time frame in which regeneration projects took place (I was extremely surprised at how long and on going it is). I didn’t have a clue about the variety of tasks people working in this field would have to take on as a daily routine. They had all kinds of jobs to do, some correlated and others were completely different from the rest. The tasks allocated to me involved: designing publicity; scanning documents; observing meetings; Attending the building site and sales office; observing interviews to select architects to design the new homes and landscape, and even door to door, hand-delivery of leaflets on the estates. I also helped at a community coffee afternoon hearing residents describe their experience and problems. On the last day I attended a disused office which is to be turned into a new community facility and saw how the design of the conversion and future management was being developed.
These projects don’t only involve Hackney but there are also projects all over London boroughs like Tower Hamlets and Southwark. Not only are councils demolishing and then re-building social housing but they also re-vamp them and allow tenants to make improvements such as designing community gardens.
I wasn’t expecting the refurbished blocks to look just as good as the completely brand new housing blocks, but they did. This experience has allowed me to learn about the steps and guidelines that must be followed in order for these huge projects to run fairly smoothly.
My experience this week will unquestionably have an impact on the way I look at social housing and the kind of personal comments I might think of when viewing certain blocks and estates. I have learnt some of the adjustments which can bring improvements to social housing.