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By David Searle

Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, HSPG


Revealed: Why housing is key for social inclusion

In 2021, a year marked by rising house prices, supply chain issues and worker shortages, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, described the housing problem as a crisis “fundamentally about social justice”.

Indeed, the danger of social exclusion for those facing housing insecurity is significant. Increasing the supply of Affordable and Supported Housing is instrumental to ensure access to safe, well-connected, and well-maintained homes which allow people to play a thriving role in our society.

The right location is vital


Good access to infrastructure and services is a critical part of social inclusion. If people are driven to remote and isolated areas in search of affordable homes, we risk depriving them of the opportunity to gain suitable employment while increasing their reliance on expensive and time-consuming travel routes. Similarly, easy access to essential services such as healthcare, leisure and retail is a vital part of social inclusion.

A further essential ingredient is being part of a healthy community. When social housing carries a stigma, not least due to its location away from cultural and communal centres, existing social divides are deepened. One approach to solve this issue is converting disused retail units into residential space. Not only does this help to revitalise town centres badly hit by the pandemic, but it also contributes to sustainability and carbon reduction goals by counteracting the carbon-intensive process of demolition and rebuilding existing structures.

Estimates suggest that conversion projects such as these could provide up to 450,000 new homes – a significant contribution towards housing targets that cannot be ignored. At HSPG, we have experienced the benefits of this strategy ourselves, with the successful transformation of a former William Hill retail unit into living space for people with experiences of domestic violence. This project has proven that regeneration can be a sustainable way to increase the supply of much-needed homes in well-connected locations.

Safety and Accessibility

Accessibility is a further barrier to social inclusion. Too often, housing design does not take the need of people with reduced mobility and disabilities into account. This can significantly impact people with accessibility needs in their daily lives, such as reaching essential services and public transport without considerable difficulty. This must be factored into social housing construction if the risk of social exclusion is to be avoided.

Moreover, the care and help provided with Supported Housing can play a considerable part in ensuring personal safety. Asylum seekers with traumatic experiences or those who have experienced domestic violence deserve safe and protected accommodation. Once again, community is a key part of social inclusion. Well-designed and safe neighbourhoods are vital to support those who have experienced violence or trauma in the past, allowing them to be accepted and included in the community.

Young people at risk of exclusion

A recent report by the National Housing Federation shows that over 120,000 young people reside in temporary accommodation, while 1.1 million children lived in overcrowded households in 2019. These figures highlight the dramatic effects that an inadequate supply of Supported or Affordable Housing can have for an entire generation. It places young people at risk of being denied the opportunities in work and education that are critical for a rewarding future.

Since our very first acquisition at HSPG, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that safe and secure housing can make on someone’s life. When we provided housing for a family of refugees, their young daughter was finally afforded the space to begin studying for her GCSEs and get the grades she needed to accomplish her dreams. High-quality housing with adequate space for those in education is crucial to aid children’s academic and social maturity.

Building new, high-quality social housing within easy access of community centres as well as sports and arts facilities is critically important in young people’s development. Children and adolescents who are unable to access these services are at serious risk of being left behind. The urgent delivery of social housing is key to averting the youth homelessness crisis from worsening in 2022.

More work to be done

The ongoing housing crisis plays a large part in the social exclusion of some of our most vulnerable citizens. From millions of children at risk of homelessness to people with disabilities and those with experiences of violence and persecution, a supply of Affordable and Supported Housing is a vital part of the infrastructure which ensures that no one is left behind.

*David Searle is the co-founder and chief operating officer of HSPG

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    What a shambles of a country.


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