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A report recently published by the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee addresses a series of issues relating to the supply, quality and regulation of social housing in England. The committee heard about the research findings co-authored by the School's Dr Mercy Denedo, Assistant Professor in Accounting, and Dr Amanze Ejiogu, Senior Lecturer in Accounting at Newcastle University Business School into stigma and discrimination in England's social housing sector.

Current condition of social housing in England

Originally launched in November 2021, the parliamentary inquiry found that the condition of some social housing in England has deteriorated so badly as to be unfit for human habitation and that some tenants were concerned about the quality of service they receive and how they are treated or spoken to by their housing provider.  

Dr Amanze Ejiogu, Newcastle University Business School, told MPs that research carried out with Dr Mercy Denedo had highlighted “countless” cases of tenants being ignored after requesting repairs and when carried out, the repair work was often completed with disrespect and a lack of regard for the tenants.   

They explained that the Grenfell Tower fire highlighted the stigma experienced by social housing tenants by shedding light on the ineffective, discriminatory and dismissive complaints procedures. Their research had heard “several examples of social housing professionals and contractors stigmatising tenants through their lack of respect when engaging with tenants, ignoring repair requests, ignoring anti-social behaviour complaints and using derogatory rhetoric.”  

In their ‘Regulation of Social Housing’ report, the LUHC Committee says that social housing providers must significantly improve their complaint handling process, and points to a power imbalance between social housing tenants and housing providers as one of the biggest problems facing the sector today. 

What comes next? 

The report recommends providers be required to support the establishment of a genuinely independent, representative tenant and resident association and the Government to establish a national body for tenants’ voices. It also recommends providers ensure their boards and senior management teams better reflect the diversity of their communities and calls on the regulator to incorporate this requirement into its revised consumer standards.  

Dr Denedo said: “Addressing stigma requires a change in organisational culture within housing providers such that a stigma consciousness is imprinted into their DNA. This can only be achieved with focused and sustained action on stigma by boards and senior management teams. In addition, tackling stigma in social housing also requires that rhetoric that stigmatises tenants is challenged, and an awareness of stigma be embedded in political narratives and housing policies as these impact on societal and media narrative on social housing.”  

Dr Ejiogu added: “We welcome the Committee’s recognition that stigma is linked to a power imbalance between landlords and tenants as well as the absence of a genuine and strong tenant voice at local, regional and national levels. While the Committee makes recommendations for the permanent establishment of the Social Housing Quality Resident Panel (SHQRP) as the National Tenant Voice, we believe that currently, the SHQRP lacks the independence, autonomy and scope to fulfil the role. What is required is an independent and genuinely tenant-run organisation, devoid of external control and influence, which can advocate for tenants.” 

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