Blog: Fayann Simpson OBE - Stand up for social housing

Published on 10/02/2021
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic we have seen the importance of a safe, secure and good-quality home. We have also seen the importance of community.

What this crisis has shown me is that social housing is vital for our communities. We have all seen the tired and lazy stereotypes of social housing residents. These bare no reflection to the people I know, who care about where they live, their neighbours and communities.

Residents want to and do contribute so much to their communities. Having a safe and secure home allows you do to that. When there is safe and secure housing for all, the whole community benefits.

This pandemic has also shown how interconnected our lives are. The homes and places we build should reflect this.

Inequalities have been highlighted around affordability, overcrowding, access to education, access to green space and the ability to work from home. We really need to take a step back to see how we can improve to meet current and future challenges. Social housing should play a big part in this.

Social housing and, in turn, its residents are often seen as a problem, when in fact it and they are a big part of the solution. At the heart of social housing are many communities that residents have built together with care over time.

Our life chances are compromised if we do not have safe and secure housing – the very fabric of the country depends on this. Think of the safety and health of you and your family if you didn’t have that.

I have spent most of my life in social housing. I have been able to focus on my life, work, education and how I can contribute to the wider community.

Having a home I can afford in a place I could put down roots has helped me to achieve and be part of the success of my community. It saddens me that so many don’t have that opportunity in a county that is rich in so many ways. It must be a priority to put this right.

Social housing has a long tradition of being a force for good, we need to look at how we build on this to create the social housing of the future.

Social housing residents are no different from those who rent privately or own their own homes. They are people who have hopes for themselves, their families and communities. But they are often seen differently and not listened to or, worse still, listened to and ignored. We remember the devastating tragedy of Grenfell – that cannot and must not happen again.

The Social Housing White Paper focuses on how we listen to and engage with residents. What residents have to say is important, insightful and valuable. They know more than anybody else what it is like to be in their homes and we should have the humility to accept this. That means putting residents at the heart of our governance structures, creating homes and services together with residents. If we listen to and act upon what residents tell us, we will create better homes and places for the future.

I have worked as an involved resident for more than 20 years. In 2018, I joined L&Q’s group board. I am now also the chair of L&Q’s resident services board and can see first-hand that residents have a wealth of skills, knowledge and expertise to offer that will make a real difference.

At L&Q we are forging a ‘co-production’ model where residents are genuinely working alongside leaders to develop ideas and make decisions that will create a lasting legacy of better homes, services and communities. I am very proud to be a part of that.

It is vital that, as a country, we map out and protect the future of social housing.

Let’s talk about the good things happening, the great communities and innovative design. We all know the slogan “protect our NHS”, well how about “protect our social housing”.

Social housing and its residents are a force for good, so we should celebrate and shout about this.

Fayann Simpson OBE, board member and chair – resident services board, L&Q