The public is in favour of building affordable housing and wants those homes to be high in quality, research by left-leaning think tank the Fabian Society has found. The think tank’s survey and focus group research found that 57% of people support building more affordable homes, with more than 90% of people believing there are problems with housing in Britain today.
The research challenges many of the common assumptions about public opposition to building affordable homes. Only 15% of survey respondents are opposed to more homes being built, with 27% being opposed if homes are built in their area. Building homes to a high standard was seen by focus group participants as a good investment and as key to avoiding stigmatising social housing tenants. In spite of the efforts of many housing providers to create tenure-blind development, respondents still want social housing to fit into its local context better.
The Fabian Society’s report concludes there should be a greater focus on addressing stigma, than on placating NIMBYs. Brian Ham, executive director of enterprise and development at housing provider Home Group, which supported the report, said, “The small number of residents who oppose development are very good at shouting very loudly and can give the impression of a local community being opposed. The reality can be very different.”
Housing traditionally lags behind the NHS and education on the list of the public’s key voting concerns, but the findings of this survey suggest the general public could feel differently as next May’s election approaches. The report, Silent majority – how the public will support a new wave of social housing, says, “Politicians who wish to see ambitious reforms of the housing market should feel confident that a mandate for change is there for the taking”. Unsurprisingly, there is some division in public sentiment along political lines – with Conservative and UKIP voters being more opposed to social housing in their area than Labour and Liberal Democrat voters – which looks set to influence the drawing of the political battle lines.