4.4 million people rent social housing: individual, group, company, voluntary and charitable landlords have 5.5 million names on private rented contracts: Generation Rent calculate that when family members are included the number of people in private rented accommodation is nearer 13 million. Since August 2022 the government has been addressing the areas Shelter’s astute report by Charlie Trew, Tarun Bhakta and Venus Galarza asks for three things: Investment, Fix Land, Fix Planning.
But as Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman notes in creating contractor standards it’s the culture that housing associations and social landlords need to create and foster in the delivery of service that matters so that the social distance between landlord and tenant is reduced for a wider good: neighbourhoods need to support the teams who work in them, the teams who work in neighbourhoods need to feel valued, motivated and that they’ve done something useful that’s really appreciated.
Given half the chance, the majority of people want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The predatory employment agency culture around renting, around students harms the wider health of the neighbourhood and community leading to skewed demographics, limited creative opportunities for local people to innovate in work, business and skill development.
This has had a massive impact on local confidence: now, after Covid in 2022 we’re realising that agencies are fine to deliver wellbeing, training, skills but they shouldn’t be brokering and gaining big commission on people’s lives.
Agency work demands much and depletes the capacity of the workforce to have their own agency.
Social and private renting combined with agency employment was the american formula we originally adopted in the white heat of the late 1950’s and 60’s.
What we can now see as an ideological move backwards in the 1970’s away from local, regional, national and international supply chain relationships as being part of a developing, peaceful democracy was replaced by the global corporate. If you were part of the corporate core you believed you were safe and it was just too hard to think of your brothers and sisters who’d been socially excluded to the periphery.
Core and peripheral notions of elite and mass workers in the 1980’s and 1990’s has justified the harm that has been done to the people excluded from the core in terms of work, access to training, education, skills.
It was only during the pandemic that, under the shadow of the massively profitable supply chains around the pandemic: digitisation platforms throughout all the services, PPE supply and distribution that we could see how local attempts to mitigate, create sustainable innovations were at best tolerated but on the whole ignored.
The powerful command economy solution was working on extractive principles and we could see this clearly: the the opportunities for the tech platforms were enormous: although we needed quality clinical care to be supported by tech platforms and agencies often the interests of clinical care, the digital and the way the workforce was perceived and understood were in competition.
In UK neighbourhoods, the seasonal cycle that we’d normalised and got used to was revealed in its harmful ruthlessness.
People furloughed, then in agency work, landlords seeking an opportunity to increase the rent was revealed in the queues outside Nottingham Law Centre in Hyson Green every morning. It’s a toxic culture where the exploitation wraps over into the provision of temporary accommodation without any sense of social connection and accountability. If we’ve worked in the housing, social welfare, health sector we all know the violence of the vested interests in property and the lives of the exploited that have grown like bindweed since the Housing Act in 1988.
Charity after charity has been set up to mitigate the underlying hypocrisy, greed and recklessness in this sector: if we have worked in any form of social welfare we all know who the big players are in all kinds of housing and social provision in our areas. We know that there’s a real need to really listen, to attend to the ground around exclusion and to do no harm there.
We all know, even if we feel unable to stop them, how the interests to extract from this demographic have been over prioritised in the last forty years.
Now, though, in 2022, there’s a strong self consciousness in local neighbourhoods that they want to be represented fully, that they want to achieve their potential and they’re saying no to agency jobs, saying no to landlord rent rises, they’re saying yes to training, education, skills, creativities, conversations across society that will make the difference that will reinstate a missing layer of representation that will benefit everyone.
We are moving into a culture that encourages young, middle aged and older people to be part of the regeneration solution we all need: restoring the relationship between landlord and tenant in a new, participative, engaged way. Everyone is a contributor.