As Shelter pushes forward with its campaign demand for 3.1 million more social homes over the next 20 years, we must also continue to argue for greater tenant voice, particularly for those most at risk of poverty and homelessness.
At Z2K we take strength from Shelter’s ambitious campaign target of 3.1 million new social homes to be built across England. It takes a charity as influential as Shelter to lead on this, and for others like us to lend our support in any which way we can.
The campaign stems from the 2018 Shelter Commission for The Future of Social Housing, of which I was delighted to have participated as a Commissioner. The Commission was a yearlong piece of work, chaired by Rev Mike Long, and made up of people from politics, policy and practice, all with different political starting points and perspectives. Much thought was given to the building of new homes, but equally important was another set of recommendations that we made about regulation and enabling tenants to exercise rights to live safely, securely and with dignity. This set of recommendations was particularly crucial in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, which formed a back drop in much of our thinking.
Underpinning all the Commission’s work, for me, was a genuine belief and commitment to tenant voice and the participation of people in all aspects of decision making relating to the building and management of social housing. Tenant voice for the Commission was a value, belief and demand that was not lip service but something that a number of commissioners came to the table wanting to talk about, and others quickly understood the purpose and benefit of.
The power of decisions being made by people with most experience was felt in the Commission’s Citizens Juries, that were held across England. Each one was attended by at least one commissioner, usually more. The Citizens Juries were designed both to hear about the experiences of a cross section of people, but also to listen to their views on the future of social housing and what needed to be done.
I personally attended the London event, and my most inspiring part of the day was listening to jurors work together to build a vision of how new housing and mixed communities could thrive and serve the needs of all that were a part of them in practice. I was taken aback by the level of knowledge and sensible ideas as well as creative thinking taking place in the room. Not because I hadn’t expected it, but because it reinforced my view that when people with lived experience come together to tackle a challenge as great as this one, they are generous and open in not just wanting the best for themselves but for everyone – and particularly for those who are most vulnerable and their voices are hidden.
I hope that the work of the Commission is the start of a conversation and provides a structure and opportunity for many more to think creatively about social housing – and in particular about tenant voice.
That’s why we are asking everyone to join the conversation, and you can do this by signing the Shelter petition. Demand the government #BuildSocialHousing and put social housing at the heart of solving homelessness and improving housing for us all.
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