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Social housing stigma?

(108 Posts)
Icantsleep3am Mon 01-Apr-19 04:02:40

I came across a thread here on MN and was struck at vile abuse thrown at the Op regarding her post on her situation in social housing. Assumptions were made (untrue), of lasiness, irresponsibily spewing sprogs around, using the system, being benefit scrounges etc. It made me wonder - why people make these assumptions?
I grew up in a family with a very strong work ethic, only relying on yourself, always striving to have a better life etc. I was ambitious, driven, hard working, had a high flying career in the past, yet the circumstances are that I live in social housing. I always invisaged myself being successful, having own house, financially secure. But an illness from which I nearly died, although I made a complete recovery, few financial setbacks when I lost all savings shook my confidence. Then I met and fell in love with my now husband (who incidentally believed that ownership was bourgeois and against his principles), by the time I recovered from my illness I was just about to pass my childbearing years. So we had children (2) without having time to save up for a house, but according to some posters on the other thread, poor people have no right to have children! And all hope of buying a place flew out of the window again when my husband got diagnosed with cancer (he’s recovered now) and now we are both past the age when we could get a mortgage. We are overcrowded, quite severely but it is a separate issue. So any time I talk about it I feel judged. We don’t abuse the system; both me and my husband work hard; we pay rent - cheaper than private, but nonetheless, and not that cheap; we pay taxes; we don’t claim benefits. So why there is such a shame around the issue of social housing - why everyone thinks I have a lesser right to life than those who own their houses? Why such a patronising attitude?

Singlenotsingle Mon 01-Apr-19 04:28:11

It sounds as though you don't necessarily want to buy a property anyway, OP. You've given all sorts of reasons why not. Saying you're too old to get a mortgage - if you investigated I'm sure you could find a lender who could help. There are loads of different mortgages around to suit people in different situations. Your DH doesn't believe in property ownership - obviously he's entitled to his opinions but it means the family suffers for them. If you buy rather than renting, you get to choose a property rather than just getting allocated something. And you're less likely to suffer overcrowding.

I don't think everyone is patronising over people in social housing and you shouldn't take it personally, especially if you work, pay taxes, and live a conventional lifestyle. What's brought this on anyway? Has someone been particularly nasty?

Stargazer888 Mon 01-Apr-19 04:35:52

Your dh doesn't believe in owning a home. I find it strange that owning a home would against any ones's principles, but there you go. You also say you are dealing with severe overcrowding. I guess I'm wondering if you can afford to buy a place and you aren't happy where you are why would you stay in social housing?

TheQueef Mon 01-Apr-19 04:37:18

There is stigma.
It's really vile sometimes on mnet.
I'm surprised that so many indulge in it here because mnet is on the whole better informed than a lot of internet spaces but poor bashing is too tempting apparently.
The myths are regurgitated to froth at and any short comings are expanded.

Social housing was never for exclusive low income or poor people it was built to build society and cohesive neighbourhoods.

Mediumred Mon 01-Apr-19 04:39:50

Anybody who looks down on people because they live in social housing is a massive judgmental arse. Housing in this country is fantastically, ruinously expensive. Many of our most valued public servants - nurses, teachers, police - and loads of people working in the private sector or out of workforce due to illness/child rearing can’t afford to buy.

You are not responsible for our country’s dysfunctional housing system and anyone who judges you, well, that says more about them than you. Do not give these people a second thought, they are not worth it.

All the best to your family, sounds like you’ve had a v hard time. Don’t waste your precious energy on judgmental asshats. Xx

ScreamScreamIceCream Mon 01-Apr-19 04:44:13

My friends' of different ages have all brought property.

Saying that I have neighbours who live in social housing who have very interesting work histories. Some of them use to have housing tied to their jobs e.g. publicans, caretakers, carers so when they retired they if course needed to be housed somewhere.

Icantsleep3am Mon 01-Apr-19 12:32:16

I want to say thank you for all the posters above, you are all very kind and your comments made me feel a lot better. My husband’s views on ownership have changed since we had our children, but so had our circumstances – a combination of reasons mean we are less likely to afford buying it now than 10 years ago.

The reason I felt compelled to write about it was this thread, where a single mother with 1 (!) teenage child - suffering harassment from other tenants (to the point of being hospitalised), her child bullied - couldn’t get rehoused; as the social landlords now do not rehouse, just encourage tenants to swap property on a mutual swap website with other tenants. She questioned the point of the house exchange, saying that it did not resolve any problems, it was impossible to swap housing if the property you are in is not desirable, it was just a way for social landlords to remove any responsibility from them and unload them onto tenants themselves, leaving them to fester in misfortune. I agree with her, and see why she feels despondent, but the way she was attacked was very aggressive! I got so upset reading the comments I couldn’t sleep. Of course, not everybody was vile, there were some kind and reasonable posters too, but lots of nasty people out there. Why people, who are fortunate to own a property - which generally grows in value, can be sold at profit, money paid in mortgage payments is a returnable investment unlike the rent - feel entitled to ram down, attack, blame and shame people less fortunate than them? Isn’t the point of the whole social system to provide equal opportunities for all, regardless of class and income, and especially for those who are less advantaged? Isn’t it for the benefit of children not be grown up in poverty, but have the same starting base in life than the richer half? Wasn’t the social system built to equalise and not to divide? What is the society turning into? Haves and have-nots?

Bravelurker Mon 01-Apr-19 13:22:03

Op, I commented on that thread more than any thread ever because of the shear ignorance of so many people.

Tbh I was so shocked that so many posters were so right wing, which isn't a bad thing but I just didn't expect it from here.
I know that posters can be literally anyone but they must represent what most people really think of social housing tenants.
A real eye opener sad

krustykittens Mon 01-Apr-19 13:28:25

Yep, the social housing stigma is vile on here. Perhaps if people realised the good that it does, rather than looking down on people, there would be more political will to build social housing. I grew up in a London council house, the only child of two parents who both worked full time in poorly paid jobs. My parents didn't have much in the way of education but encouraged me to go to uni. We were not rich but cheap rent help us keep above the poverty line. I could aspire to a better lifestyle because we were not so ground down by poverty that living any better seemed like an impossible dream. I now own by own house and my parents were able to buy once I left home (privately, not the council house we were in) freeing the property up for someone else. But even if you don't leave council housing, so what? Cities like London still need people to do the lower paid jobs and they still need somewhere to live. Council housing in wealthy areas gives poorer working people more dignity and a better quality of life.

Bravelurker Mon 01-Apr-19 13:39:47

But mn is famed for being progressive in matters of equal rights, escaping abusive relationships especially when children are involved.
So where were all of these posters when we were being shamed for not being able to buy our own property or helping someone else pay for theirs? They can't be the same people surely.

AdvancedAvoider Mon 01-Apr-19 13:53:34

I knew you were going to say it was that thread.

Ever since I've been on mn, around 10 years there's been this attitude towards social/council housing. And it's always the same names that give facts and correct peoples incorrect opinions.

Personally I'm more interested in what kind of person someone is, not what their housing situation is.

Interestingly a lot of the snobbery imo comes from private renters/people who are just scraping by. It reeks of jealousy.

TheQueef Mon 01-Apr-19 14:27:19

I think some of it is pulling up the ladder and some genuinely believe it's low income housing but the venom does come from private renters and jams.
Sorry to say but typical Tory tactics of setting the poorer against each other.

Sorrywhat Mon 01-Apr-19 14:30:56

Whatever your reasons are for not owning your house are your reasons and everyone in this country are entitled to ahome if you have children (and in many many cases without them also!)
I look at people who own their houses, a family member in particular, and they do it because society makes them think they should. I do not own a house and do not know if I ever will. However, my choices are based around my children. Ideally I’d like to be a SAHM and will one day do this (only have one child at the minute). If I have a mortgage I would be leaving myself veru short in terms of money. I’d rather give my time to my children.

That family member I mentioned briefly would also love to be a SAHM but cannot because she has a mortgage so instead she reluctantly goes to work 3 days a week. She looks miserable.

It’s whatever works for you.

confusedfornow Mon 01-Apr-19 14:31:56

I think most people are of the opinion that social housing should be like benefit money.

Temporary, and only until you sort something else out.

Just living perpetually in a council funded property is seen as taking the piss.

tillytoodles1 Mon 01-Apr-19 14:43:18

I live in social housing and don't care what others think. We lost our house when my husband became very ill and could no longer work. I was his carer for years as he couldn't be left alone for long.
He died suddenly two months ago , and as I'm 62 and too young to claim a pension, but too old for work, what am I supposed to do? I hate people who look down on people when they don't know the circumstances!

TheQueef Mon 01-Apr-19 14:43:21

hmm Confused the only subsidy in social housing is when the house is built, central gov lend the money to be repaid over 3/5 years with no interest.
The rents paid to the local council pay that back.
The rent stays low because the local council is only allowed to make 10% profit after maintaining.

The council aren't funding anything.

I think you are talking about emergency housing. Social housing is meant to be for life.

flirtygirl Mon 01-Apr-19 14:57:32

Social housing has become more and more looked down upon. It's a side effect of the tory austerity policies and the demonisation of benefit claimants.

Anyone living in social housing is seen to be getting something for nothing or for very little.

This is very unfair. But people don't want to challenge it.

The fact the rents are set at a decent level and then channeled back into maintenance and salaries and small profits seems to go above a lot of people head. Why shouldn't housing be run along these lines more? Why do we have to make large profits on something that all people need and only run it along pure capitalist lines?

The market can run alongside it but social housing and more social housing is needed. It's a good thing.

People need or stop being so ignorant. But that is what comes when it's a race to the bottom and when people start kicking all those who they perceive as getting more than them. It's a scrum where we are now used to kicking and stepping on others because we see them as not deserving and because they are not like us. We are othering poor people, low income families, benefits claimants, the sick and disabled, muslim/black. Whatever it may be they are the other. Not like us.

So all these people get someone to look down on and blame.

It won't change, it will get worse until government changes or its policies change, as all this has got worse in the last 10/11 years.

Before, there was always bad estates but there were also decent estates which were social or council and people worked and lived and bought up families there. There was no massive divide between owners and renters at that level. Of course there divides further up. But there was not so many dividing lines at this level.

And as the private rental market is so expensive and unfair and insecure, people there think social housing is unfair except they should be asking for more social house and less private rentals.

The government has systemically put money into housing and keeping prices high, building affordable homes that are not affordable and helping the large house building companies. They could have put money into social housing but they actually created rules that meant they could not.

Until they put more money into social housing and stop the whole propaganda of the poor not deserving anything and the demonisation of anyone seen as other, nothing will change. It will only get worse.

Eliza9917 Mon 01-Apr-19 15:00:46

The reason that poster got the replies they did is because they came across as very ungrateful and 'more, more, more' at no expense or effort from themselves. Just wanted a nice house handed on a plate.

It was impossible to swap housing if the property you are in is not desirable, it was just a way for social landlords to remove any responsibility from them and unload them onto tenants themselves, leaving them to fester in misfortune.

Many people have to live undesirable areas, as that is all they can afford, but they take responsibility for providing for themselves and buy in less than great areas. Why should subsidised people get to live in better areas than people fully paying their way?

Many, many, people that own their properties live in less than ideal conditions until they can, if ever carry carry out repairs. I'd imagine if there was a survey of who lives in the worst conditions owners would come out worst as they have to pay for upkeep & repairs themselves.

FlorencesHunger Mon 01-Apr-19 15:02:49

I think if you set out a plan then it could be doable if not atleast you can save for the longterm. I'm in social housing but it isn't a lifetime let, 21yrs which is still lengthy. I'm greatful for an affordable rent and I am working towards sorting my life out financially and taking advantage of my child getting older and being less dependant.

I'm saving now for a deposit on a home but it will be atleast 7-12yrs before I can realise it. Circumstances could get better or worse in that time so I look at it that I will atleast have savings whatever the outcome.

Currently have a lifetime isa but that might not be an option for you depending on your age.

I don't care for the stigma, I am fortunate but I will not be ashamed for occupying something that is available.

SimonJT Mon 01-Apr-19 15:16:11

There is a huge stigma, I lived in social housing growing up, so we also had the ‘coming over here stealing our jobs and houses’ comments. My Dad worked really hard, but as a taxi driver he wasn’t making enough money to rent privately or buy property. He is now in his late fifties and still lives in social housing as that is what he can afford.

I personally haven’t lived in social housing since I was 16, but I would have jumped at the chance to when I was young and renting tiny bedrooms for stupidly high rents.

Parky04 Mon 01-Apr-19 15:29:13

The house next to ours is Housing Association and all of the neighbours have been wonderful hardworking people. The previous occupant who unfortunately died in a car accident worked 12 hours a day at a school for autistic children. She died whilst transporting the children to some event.

Brilliantidiot Mon 01-Apr-19 15:48:34

The stigma towards social housing on here is awful. And the same lines that are trotted out are for the most part not true anyway.
Challenge them. The thread you're talking about I did see but I was at work all weekend so lost track.
But I remember one a few months ago, and boy, it was a viper pit. After loads of 'Be grateful for your free house!' comments, I asked these posters to point me in the direction of free housing from social landlords, or the council. Because it doesn't exist. No one responded.
There is also a lot of 'you should just Be grateful you don't have to pay for repairs!' when someone complains about an issue with social housing, yet social housing tenants pay rent, and if it were a private tenant, the answers would be different.
And 'I have to replace my own roof you know and pay for it!' yes, but you then own that roof don't you! If my roof is replaced, the LL owns it, and the house it's attached to. So it benefits the LL - social or private, because repairs help the property keep its value or even increase the value.
And I've also pointed out that social housing rents may be a bit less expensive, but that's because social landlords have their own contractors to fix things, many of them are non profit, and you literally get a bare shell. You don't get the things you do in private rent, so why would you pay the same rate? Social housing is often in areas that aren't as nice either. So there's that. My rent is probably £10/15 cheaper than a similar private rent.
The massive, massive upside though is that you have a secure tenancy. I moved 8 times in 15 years, uprooting DDs school twice. Because private LLs decided to sell.
You also get things fixed, and properly, you get the annual safety checks done and on time. You also have the freedom to put pictures up, change decor etc.
There's also either a very small or no deposit to move in. A huge thing about moving when in private rent is your current LL has your deposit until you move out, your new LL needs a deposit before you move in...... So you need twice the amount to make it work.
Then you have letting agents fees for private rents, which are ridiculous for some.
I private rented for years, I couldn't face keeping moving at someone else's decision. So when I was brought to being homeless by an abusive relationship, and ended up on my mother's sofa, I applied for social housing. I took the first place that was big enough. No one wants to live here because it's a flat, but I like it. The village doesn't even have a shop, but that's a small price to pay for knowing my DD can be settled through her GCSEs, college and hopefully, university.
No one is doing me a favour by letting me live here, I pay the rent that the ha set - out of my full time wage btw - and pay the same for everything else as everyone else does. I also don't have an LL that seems to think he's bestowing me with a huge favour by letting me live in his house, and treats me as an inconvenience when things need repairs, despite me paying the rent, and keeping the place in good order.

TFBundy Mon 01-Apr-19 15:49:11

I grew up in council housing (as it used to be known!) and so did the majority of my classmates. The vast majority of our parents had jobs and were considered "respectable". The houses were - for the most part - well-kept and tidy. The odd neighbour was of the "three legged dog, sofa in the garden and car up on bricks for 5 years" variety, but the most scathing critics of that kind of thing were the other council tenants ime. At that point, I don't think there was a stigma - it was almost the "norm".

These days, social housing is scarce and the level of need required before being given help is significantly higher. Inevitably this means more "problem" families being housed together, less social cohesion and even degrees of ghettoization. That is the root cause of the stigma ime even though in many areas SA housing is plentiful and not just for those in dire need. And of course the "rationing" element makes people believe that others who are less deserving are gaining houses at their expense (single mothers in the 80's, immigrants in the 90's, etc).

My DGP's lived in their council maisonette for 40-odd years. All of the residents used to have a rota to maintain the riverside garden - it was beautiful. DGP's took the opportunity to buy theirs during RTB very cheaply and shortly afterwards (when much of the housing stock had been sold off) the problems began. The person in the flat below them had severe MH difficulties and would regularly pile up his furniture and set fire to it. They had to leave and the entire block has become a "no go" area. I am morally opposed to RTB but thank goodness DGP's did it because at least they could "escape".

So yes, there is a stigma OP - I agree with you.

NiteFlights Mon 01-Apr-19 15:55:36

It’s a stupid prejudice that people have, fostered by the endless propaganda about benefit claimants, ‘scroungers’ etc, ignoring the fact that just like private rented accommodation, tenants can be receiving benefits or not.

I also think there is an element of envy, as social housing tenancies are usually very secure, and those who rent privately don’t have the benefit of this. Private landlords can also be absolutely dreadful.

Unfortunately we live in a society in which people get very het up about others appearing to get ‘something for nothing’ or ‘without having worked for it (like I did)’, even if this isn’t true, and social housing tenants are one of the scapegoats in this line of thinking. There are also those who labour under the delusion that other people are not ‘taxpayers’ like them and don’t contribute anything (again an attitude fostered by the right wing press etc).

Any sane person ought to agree that secure tenancies and affordable rents are a good thing for a society, for all sorts of reasons. Housing should not be a privilege nor should a housing system be a race to the bottom.

However I would say that occasionally, those in secure social housing appear not to realise that they are fortunate to have the advantages that come with it, and while they have a right to complain about things that are not right etc, they should remember that people in private rented or owned accommodation have their own problems that come with that type of housing. That sense of unawareness of the struggles that others have can come across as selfish and entitled and some of the stigma comes from that.

Brilliantidiot Mon 01-Apr-19 15:57:18

And to add, of course I'm grateful to have a roof over my head, but it's not been just handed to me for nothing. I pay the rent, and I am working on improving the flat and the garden a bit at a time. I will not be forelock tugging to people who don't know what they're talking about, and who come out with the 'my taxes pay for you!' crap - I work full time, my taxes contribute too.

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