Investment in social housing is an investment in people

Etched in my brain is the fact that only two per cent of those from a social housing background get out of poverty through education and skill enhancement. And with circa 70% of people in social housing being economically inactive (as unemployment is described), we need to address this appalling reality.

It has to be done by recognising that social housing needs to be transformed to enable people to have a fuller life, and not be caught in the margins of a permanent need, where the only inheritance that parents can give their children is their own inherited poverty.

Investing in social housing therefore has to be an investment in the children of those who are in social housing. And it has to be based on a new and deeper understanding of the role of the state in providing the mechanisms for social transformation in the lives of those in need. 

There has to be a completely new economics that starts with dismantling poverty, that invests in preventing the poverty that represents the biggest cost to us as a society. 

We must recognise that every underinvested, undersupported child will cost many, many times more than if invested in and supported at the stage when the ground they are to walk on in their future life is being decided on.

Is it not a difficult fact to face that if government spends circa 40% of its income on dealing with the collateral and direct damage caused by poverty, then it needs to reshape its priorities. We should be building poverty-busting budgets and looking at the true cost of poverty to society. Building budgets that enable us to shut down most of our prisons, make food banks a distant memory, and plan and scheme to this end. 

Let us invest in more social housing and make social housing more just by helping its occupants to get out of poverty and skill up their children to exit the need they inherit from their parents.

Over the coming weeks I will be traipsing around a few cinemas – Harbour Lights Picture House, Southampton (3 April), Hackney Picture House (17 April) and Cinema City Picture House, Norwich (24 April) doing a Q&A after the showing of Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son, a brilliant film by Lorna Tucker, who was herself once homeless.

Among other things I will be talking about social housing and our need to help people make it a full-life experience, not simply a warehousing of people in need. 

If you get a chance to see this film then please come along and stay for the Q&A. And when the general election comes I hope you will join us at the Big Issue in calling for a vast increase in social and affordable housing, with a full commitment to making sure that housing does become the launch pad for a better life. 

John Bird is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

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This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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