Friday 8 May 2009

Raynsford: 'the key problem is social segregation'

The Today programme reported on our new report In The Mix, published today by the Fabian Society and the Webb Memorial Trust.

Today has an online video of Simon Thomson's interviews with Thamesmead residents Sheila and Alan Harris. You can also hear his report and Today's interview with Nick Raynsford on the Listen again page over the next week. (It will be indexed under Friday 8th May, 7.19am)

Here is what Nick Raynsford said this morning, interviewed by James Naughtie.

JN: We are joined by Nick Raynsford, former housing minister among other things in the government, who wrote an introduction to the Fabian report. It is quite a statement this that the first generation after the second world war in public housing was better off in many ways socially than the one which followed it. What an admission of failure in housing policy.

NR: I think this is all very well explored in the pamphlet. But I think it is an indication of the way in which social policy has changed, and housing policy has changed over the last fifty or sixty years, two things have happened. Firstly, there has been much more concentration on housing the poorest and the most disadvantaged. One of the problems with council housing in the 1940s and 1950s was that it was available only to better off people who could pass testso prove that they would look after their homes. A lot of poorer people were left without adequate housing in terrible slums and indeed homeless people had no proper protection at all and were left often in disgraceful circumstances.

So there has been more concentration on housing the poorest and that has inevitably created a different ...

[Interviewer: A divide}

Well, it has created a framework where there are a lot less people: this is the second trend: the loss of housing through the right to buy took out quite a lot of the more affluent and better off elements of people within the social housing sector.

So you ended up more concentration of the poorest and more disadvnataged in a smaller [sector] and in some cases, as in the example you gave at Thamesmead, very badly designed estates. and that was a recipe for disaster.

Now the good news is that we have learnt some important lessons from that. Just five miles away from Thamesmead, in my constituency in Greenwich we have a very fine example in Greenwich Mllennium Village of a new development, mixed tenure, which is very popular, where people don't know at first sight who are tenants who are tenants and who are owner occupiers, because they are all living in similar properties and the design is such with good facilities, school, health centre and good transport links so that people can live a very happy and successful and safe life.

[Interviewer: What is the social problem that has come about, do you think, that needs to be tackled by developments like that?]

NR: The key thesis in this report - and it's right - is that the key problem is social segregation.

It was an unfortunate characteristic of 20th century housing policy that we build large estates exclusively of one tenure. On the one side, council housing only for increasingly poorer people as the century wore on. On the other side, owner occupied housing exclusively for better off people.

And the idea that the two should mix together and live together which of course has been the norm for five thousand years of recorded human history was somehow abandoned in the nineteeth and twentieth centuries, that was the mistake and we have got to rectify that.

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