And I sent both letters first class registered post!
So its an open letter now – lets see if ANY politicians reply – (No stamp required – it can be in a comment on here).
Minister for Housing
House of Commons
Dear Mr Prisk,
It has been with great interest that I have followed the workings / movements within parliament of any MP connected with Housing,
I will happily relay my story of why this holds such interest to you if you contact me requesting it.
I wish to say I have always agreed with the fundamental idea of a community-up approach to solving the housing crisis we in Britain are facing. I also felt that the push for more localised “Housing-Trusts” made sense, however I am extremely worried that MP’s who may have never lived in Social Housing do not understand the constraints immediately burdened upon a Social Housing tenant – constraints which have left a whole section of the British community living as second class citizens.
Sadly because of “Stealth Discrimination” I am certain you have immediately thought people who live in Social Housing are those who are claiming benefits to subsidise their costs. Something perpetuated by the media / structure of the laws in this country.
Whilst the premise of Social Housing is a good one ie: affordable housing for Low to Middle income citizens, the reality of the UK today is, if you live in Social Housing, even if you are not claiming any benefits you are “tarred” as being socially & financially inferior to those who have managed to purchase a home.
This is further compounded by recent laws which protect the “ home-owner” against the now named ASBO generations – Which again has unfortunately tarred all Socially Housed citizens with the same brush.
Laws such as the one you are championing relating to “Community Harm Statements”, which will allow the victim of nuisance neighbours to provide “Victim Statements” in court, are further subjugating the Low to Middle Income families / citizens who choose to or are indeed forced to live in Social Housing.
This law will never help Social Housing tenants as they very very rarely get their problem to court – Most Landlords opting for moving (Re-locating) their tenant away from the Private Owners who are causing issues. This option has been used far too easily for my liking – in itself perpetuating the myth that the “Social Housing Tenant was moved due to bad behaviour” – When in fact it was a constructed move to give the Social Housing tenant some respite.
As a Socially Housed tenant, we are governed by many rules (ones which do not apply to Private owners) – we are tasked with behaving in a manner, which the vast majority of us do anyway! Law-abiding & peacefully wanting to enjoy our homes, whether this is after a hard day’s work, or whether it’s during a day at home waiting for children at school. The vast majority wish to be left in peace.
However as we are so publicly berated constantly in the media & also in parliament, this has become an avenue for people to use to commit acts of harassment, bullying, victimisation, discrimination against us, purely for the fact that we pay a rent to a landlord & not to a bank (mortgage).
Just so you can glean a mild understanding of what the fact we pay our rent to a Landlord means; Are you aware that if someone complains about a social housing tenant to their landlord, each complaint absolutely has to be investigated regardless of what the complaint is about! I have records from tenants being investigated for growing the wrong type of flowering plants (not in keeping with the area), for laughing too loudly (outside the front of their own home), for having a dog (totally legal), for using their own purchased refuse bins but putting the lids on too loudly, for allowing a cat to walk on a fence, the list goes on.. This can mean the tenant has to have time off from work to attend meetings with their landlord. However there is no avenue for complaints (to cause investigations) to be sent by a socially housed citizen to get this response against private owners. The socially housed citizen cannot complain to the bank/mortgage provider.
I have records of Tenants being spat at, being lied about (rumours being spread about them claiming benefits illegally), being shouted at, having Private owners standing outside the Social Housing residence & stopping passers-by to inform them that “the woman living there doesn’t own her home, she is a tenant of XXXX”. All perfectly legal acts by private owners, however Socially Housed citizens would be in breach of tenancy immediately & face losing their home.
Even when you look at more important problems such as noise nuisance, the Socially Housed tenant is immediately discriminated against, with the Private owner being able to contact the landlord & a “Breach of Tenancy” letter threatening eviction almost always follows without any evidence (admittedly these are computer generated, but are extremely upsetting).
The other way around, the Socially Housed tenant has to contact Environmental Health departments, keep diaries, get independent witnesses – the list is endless & even if you gather the evidence (In some cases witnessed by police), The Socially Housed tenant has no recourse unless an agency decides to act & usually Environmental Health decide not to act due to financial constraints; These being the cost of taking a private owner to court is prohibitive to the outcome gained..
The above also applies when faced with acts of criminal damage, abuse (verbal & physical) and harassment & bullying. The Tenant is immediately investigated & is under threat of Breach of Tenancy regardless of witness or outcome (Never receiving apologies if vindicated), The Private owner can keep the behaviour up for years & never even get a warning as the cost of prosecution is prohibitive & the outcome subjective (No eviction will be happening in this scenario).
As stated, this has led to many Socially Housed tenants; who have been subjected to years of being treated as second class in their own homes, being voluntarily moved away from this behaviour Sadly this perpetuates the myth that the tenants were the issue.
What we need is someone standing up & stating – Just because a person has purchased a home (sometimes utilising their discount, sometimes utilising a parent’s discount) they cannot be treated any differently to someone who is in a property which hasn’t been privately purchased.
They should be subject to the same expected behaviours, the same laws & indeed the same consequences of breaching those laws.
What we need is a fairer system. Not scare mongering & class division.
What we need is someone in a position of power to categorically state that Social Housing does not mean low-grade & inferior & ensure that is referring to the citizens who live there – NOT the bricks & mortar!
We also need the laws being passed to transcend housing purchase/rental status!
Please could you let me know if the laws you are currently backing make provision for the problems the majority of law-abiding, working, bill paying, Socially Housed citizens face?
Please could you also let me know if you will be able to help correct misconceptions held by not only some sections of the British public, but by also many authorities; that Socially Housed means second-class?
Jack Dromey – Shadow Housing Minister