Social housing and council estates are never far from front page news and I’m sure most people will agree that stigmatisation goes hand in hand with any surrounding discussion. I know that coming from the North East of England gives me a different experience of social housing in comparison with the extreme lack of housing in places such as London but there is still a shortage of suitable housing. As far as I am aware I am in a similar position to thousands of people throughout the country. I earn a part time wage, have a partner who is self employed and works extremely long hours, have a young baby and a family surrounding me who are extremely supportive. Beside a car on finance we, as a couple, owe no money out and manage to get by month by month without having to borrow money. We work hard and are blessed to be in a situation where this is possible. However housing is a major issue. The reason we are currently in this position with regards to money is that we live with my mother. It’s a story I have read, heard and experienced time and time again. The issue that living month by month is manageable but overpriced and no secure housing leads to misery and heartache. We have just collected the keys to a property on a new estate described as ‘the councils new affordable homes programme’. This is something which is new to both of us. After a period of time registered with the council we were offered a two bedroom property ten minutes from where we currently live but an area I am not familiar with
The private rental market is my real issue here. As I have mentioned we can comfortably live each month but haven’t been in a position where we can build up substantial savings in order to save a deposit to buy a home and I can’t see this changing any time soon. Another issue, which has also reared it’s ugly head when we have privately rented in the past, is that although my partner earns enough to support us, due to my low income and him being self-employed many people aren’t willing to offer us a tenancy as my wage alone wouldn’t cover the rates charged by private landlords – and don’t get me started on the cost of private rents! As I mentioned earlier, we do live in the North East, and property prices are nowhere near as high as they are ‘down south’ but nevertheless the issues still remain the same. In the past we have paid to rent privately with rates that have left us with nothing left after paying bills – literally! We have lived in places with damp, mould, drafts, leaking boilers and unanswered phone calls, text messages and empty promises with regards to arranging times to meet. We have had issues with getting back deposits and the list goes on. The point I suppose I am trying to make is that there appears to be an unhealthy, negative and on the whole untrue stigmatisation that goes hand in hand with social housing. Every individuals situation is different but upon telling people about our new accommodation we have been met with mixed responses – responses we didn’t get when privately renting. We aren’t entitled to any benefits but we are entitled to an affordable and secure home – what does that matter? Yes there will be people living on the estate who claim housing benefits, Job Seekers, disability allowance and the list goes on. There will be people on the estate earning more than we do, people who work and people who don’t but that is no different to any of the streets myself or my partner have lived on, whether privately renting or living with parents who own their own home. ‘The people’ who live on council estates (as they are often referred too) are no different to you or me. I am now one of these ‘people’ and I want to know why is it that you often feel as though you are being met with pity with regards to living in social housing?