Who is social housing for?

Julia Park

Julia Park urges architects to pay more attention to the long-term maintenance of housing they design

This is one of four questions that the Charted Institute of Housing (CIH) has used to stimulate debate on the future of social housing. The findings of their research were published last month in Rethinking Social Housing, a well-written report that provides plenty of food for thought.

They also asked: What is social housing? What does it do? And what should its purpose be? All pretty straightforward until you try to answer them. I fell at the first hurdle. While I support the principle of lifetime tenancies, I struggle with the reality that allowing households whose incomes have risen enough to allow them to buy or rent on the open market, to remain indefinitely, denying others with greater needs and lower incomes, that opportunity.

I’m obviously not alone: based on feedback, the report suggests three very different roles that social housing might have:

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