I have been saddened to learn of social housing tenants across the country being denied access to communal facilities. Development companies that are required to include ‘affordable housing’ in their buildings are circumventing the spirit of the requirement by excluding those in ‘affordable housing’ from the shared areas, such as playgrounds. This came to the fore a few weeks ago at the Baylis Old School complex in South London, where children in social housing were prohibited from sharing the site’s playground with children whose parents owned their homes. Thankfully, the development company, Henley Homes, has backed down and allowed all children on the complex to use the playground.
‘Affordable’ housing and social housing in private developments was designed to encourage social mixing and challenge the detrimental impact of ghettoising the poor. Developers have no interest in the laudable mission of redressing social inequality and focus solely on profits, so local authorities and national legislation needs to step up and impose more robust social responsibility requirements on these businesses, lest we return to ‘poor doors’. It has already been pointed out by residents and journalists that such segregation unfairly hinders the most vulnerable in society. Why should a family with a child in a wheelchair be forced to travel to access a social area when there is one already on their doorstep?
We are facing a housing crisis, and far too many of the new developments across the UK are financially inaccessible for most people. Where developers have agreed to social or ‘affordable’ housing, it is imperative that they fully respect their responsibility to all of their tenants, not just the ones paying the most rent. We need fewer divisions in our society, not more, and it is regrettable that the driving force of this particular division is transparently the greed of the already wealthy.