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Opinion: Burdening tenants with extra conditions doesn’t work

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Opinion: Burdening tenants with extra conditions doesn’t work


Published by Anonymous for in Housing and also in Communities, Regulation

Opinion: Flooding tenants with conditions doesnt work Opinion: Flooding tenants with conditions doesnt work

By Alison Inman, CIH and TPAS board member and former chair of the National Federation of ALMOs

Every conference has a highlight and the person who blows you away is not always the ‘big name’ you were looking forward to. A couple of years ago I went to CIH Scotland Conference in Glasgow and the person who really made me think was a 50-odd year old copper from Strathclyde.

John Carnochan had been a police officer for well over 30 years and was working with Strathclyde Police’s Violence Reduction Unit, heading up their gangs initiative.

If you ever get the chance to hear John speak then please take it. He’s worked on the sharp end of policing in one of the most challenging areas of the UK but now spends his time talking about the importance of nursery education for the under-5s, of the need to eradicate domestic violence, of attachment disorders and how we treat our mums.

Carnochan knows how to catch villains and make sure they get locked up for a very long time but he also knows that is not the whole picture; it’s not how we help people to change. Change is hard.

Fast forward two years and out of a stellar line-up at CIH Conference in Manchester it was JRF chief executive Julia Unwin who gave me food for thought.

She joined Danny Finkelstein and Owen Jones to discuss ‘Has the State abandoned the Poor’ and it was Julia who looked at the subject from an unexpected angle. Her argument was that, far from abandoning them, the State has never interfered more in the lives of poor people.

Whether it is benefits sanctions, fixed penalties for taking a child out of school because you can’t afford school holiday prices, to proposals to remove child benefit from parents who don’t read to their kids, conditionality is everywhere. It is likely that sanctions will start to be attached to housing benefit and some housing providers are beginning to do the same.

Anyone who has spent time in the criminal justice system, or the family courts, knows that change is difficult. If the threat of imprisonment is not enough to prevent offending and the possibility of the removal and adoption of a much-loved child doesn’t get a young mum off drugs, then why are we thinking of adding conditions to tenancy agreements to try and change behaviour?

Housing providers do amazing things to improve communities. They genuinely change lives and help people to reach their potential. I believe that we should be offering all the help, challenge and support that we can - but that should be outside the tenancy agreement. My mortgage provider doesn’t impose these conditions on me; my son’s landlord in the PRS doesn’t either.

Accessing social housing is not straightforward in the first place, and is a lot harder for some people than others. If you are unemployed you will be meeting all the conditions placed upon you by JobCentrePlus or your very ability to survive will be threatened by sanctions. Do we also need to threaten the very roof over someone’s head too?

People who voice doubts over increased conditionality are accused of all sorts of unpleasant things. ‘Seeing the worst in tenants’, ‘Patronising’, ‘Indignant’ ‘Self-righteous’ to name a few. I hope I’m not any of those things, I just happen to disagree.

Final thought. Would landlords be doing this if there wasn’t such a chronic shortage of homes or is social housing being increasingly viewed as short-term welfare provision?

Pictured: Julia Unwin. Photo by Simon Brandon


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