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Opening the door to social cohesion

Monday 29 July 2019 Demographic Data

Thomas Fletcher-Wilson's picture
By Thomas Fletcher-Wilson

The 'poor door'

Numerous articles have been hitting the headlines over the past few years regarding social inclusion and cohesion in residential developments. You may remember controversial topics such as a South London development blocking social housing children from the communal playground, hedges being built to reduce visibility of certain areas in developments and the different doors and access points for social tenants dubbed ‘the poor door’. In 2015 Sadiq Khan stated that "Poor doors segregate people who are living side by side, they drive a wedge between our communities," and pledged to ban them. So why in 2019 are ministers only now agreeing to tackle the issue and face a problem tainting the residential market? On the 23rd of July 2019 Inside Housing has also reported that a source at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has come forward and said “The guidance isn’t a total ban – it is guidelines that developers need to consider when applying for permission, but the guidance will make it much clearer what the government expects to be acceptable.” This is despite housing secretary James Brokenshire again committing to eradicating the ‘poor door’ implementation in residential developments.

 

But is the problem deeper than physical barriers?

 

 

Social cohesion

The OECD Development Centre, in its 2012 edition of the Perspectives on Global Development: Social Cohesion in a Shifting World describes a cohesive society as one which “works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward social mobility.”

 

Social cohesion is not a new topic but has been pushed to the forefront due to numerous reasons. I would like to focus on the renewed interest due to the increase in affordable and social housing across the UK. Another focus is due to the changing faces of developments with a heightened importance on social capital and community.

 

“The CBRE UK Residential Investment Market view Q1 2019 revealed that between January and March 2019, there was a total of £1.04bn of investment into the UK private rental sector for Build to Rent schemes, including several forward funding deals, and some direct site acquisitions. This is four times higher than in Q1 2018 and is among the strongest quarterly investment volume recorded over the past four years.”

Landlord Today

The build to rent market across the UK has been growing at a vast rate as has mixed use residential developments. These schemes have created ‘urban villages’ that have established new communities and broken the mould of slow induction of a number of new residents to a swifter onboarding process that can quite literally see thousands of tenants re-locating in a new environment within a matter of months. On a broader scale as the UK faces a housing crisis buyers and renters are expanding their horizons and venturing into new communities and geographical locations. This has also seen a proportion of these developments offering occupancy to social tenants to gain and increase their chances of planning permission. 

 

It must be noted that the cases of social segregation are extremely rare in comparison to the number of developments across the UK. Considering the fact we cannot paint all developers and developments with the same brush we must also be in agreement that even one case is too much.

 

 

Spotting the Divide

Using CACI’s Household Acorn dataset, a geodemographic segmentation of the UK population widely used and recognised by social and private developers and landlords, we can start to analyse the top 10 ‘Acorn Types’ that respond to certain social situations and environments.

 

In answer to the question do you disagree you belong to a neighbourhood the top 10 key types are:

 

 

As we can see the pendulum swings strongly towards social renters and less affluent groups. In comparison to this if we start to explore the key types that are members of a tenants or residents group the elderly and more affluent types are the higher indexing groups.

 

Of course there are many factors that we have not investigated and the insight I have provided is limited. From these two simple variables being applied we do start to see a clear social divide in communities that was possibly not as evident as before. This is due to the mixture of tenants in developments.

 

The pre-existing social divide that is widely evidenced not only in the UK but globally is the deeper root of the issue. By no means am I condoning the actions of such developers, but perhaps they are simply reacting to long standing and pre-existing issue. The creation of two separate entrances has only evidenced the divide between social and private renters, it has not created it.

 

 

So What?

My point above is not that society is naturally segregated so there can be no outcome. It is that we can learn and prosper more by not only banning physical barriers and segregation techniques, but from understanding more about not just our tenants but those that surround them.

 

There have been some great initiatives taken by social and private landlords to create a sense of community and integrate new tenants. This cannot be overlooked, but perhaps the problem comes from not identifying early on what the impact will be long term.

 

Referring back to the definition by OECD how are developers and landlords offering tenants the “opportunity of upward social mobility” and is it being identified and recognised early enough? Should this be as compulsory? Instead of dropping tenants' side by side and expecting harmony I believe customer insight and un-objective data can provide the view on which locations will work and which locations are potentially at risk so pre-emptive action can be taken. The initiative needs to be cohesive between social and private landlords and developers.

 

If you would like to learn more about how CACI has been enabling customer insight for social housing, please feel free to contact me at twilson@caci.co.uk.

Numerous articles have been hitting the headlines over the past few years regarding social inclusion and cohesion in residential developments. In 2015 Sadiq Khan stated that "Poor doors segregate people who are living side by side, they drive a wedge between our communities," and pledged to ban them. So why in 2019 are ministers only now agreeing to tackle the issue and face a problem tainting the residential market?

Opening the door to social cohesion