Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Does living in Social Housing Need to be Made any more Difficult?

Council house estates are now perceived so negatively that proximity to one can adversely affect property values. 'Sink estates' have entered the language as synonymous with crime, burned out cars, drug-taking and trading plus a welter of anti-social behaviour from families unused to the discipline and self sufficiency of working for a living. It was not always thus.

I lived in a council house for ten year aged 7-17 and in each case the tiny estates we three siblings lived on in rural Shropshire with my separated school teacher mother, were well kept and tenanted by hard-working working class families. Nor was there any stigma attached to living in such houses(our last not unlike the one pictured). Indeed, council houses were seen as highly desirable back then in the fifties and sixties, with their running water and flush toilets. Unfortunately things began to go downhill during the seventies when councils began to refer any problem family to occupy their stock of 'social housing', to use the description. This led to more problems and a desire by some families to 'escape' elsewhere, anywhere.

Next, as Lynsey Hanley observes, mass unemployment in the eighties hit the working class most severely, beginning the shameful dynastic family sequences on unemployment to the extent that some children still grow up wholly unsuited for work of any kind. Moreover, the 'right to buy' policy of the eighties led to nearly two million families selling up and leaving our council estates proportionately even more populated by social casualties. Hanley concludes the current proposal by the gorgeous, pouting housing minister, Caroline Flint, to link occupancy rights to job-seeking, is to add to social housing tenants yet another layer of the present day stigma of living in these benighted areas. She may well have a point.

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