Residents of social housing feel stigmatised as 'scroungers and drug addicts'

A report has shown that some residents in social housing estates feel they are stigmatised and are viewed as “all scroungers and drug addicts” who live “rent free”.

Residents of social housing feel stigmatised as 'scroungers and drug addicts'

The report, ‘Changing Perceptions: Stigma and Social Housing in Ireland’, was carried out on behalf of Clúid Housing by Anna Carnegie, Michael Byrnen and Michelle Norris of the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, University College Dublin.

The report states: “In many residents’ opinions the general public characterises them as work-shy, exploiting the benefits system and that they live “rent free” or in “free houses”.”

One interviewee identified a perception that social housing residents were “all scroungers and drug addicts” and another said he welcomed the opportunity to meet non-social housing residents so they could see he “wasn’t the big bad wolf”.

The report looks at case studies from three developments in Dublin — Ballymun, Clarion Quay, and Fatima Mansions. Many social housing residents expressed frustration about the prevalence of negatives stereotypes of the sector and complained: “We’re all tarred with the one brush.”

Simon Brooke, head of policy at Clúid Housing, said “the issue of stigma in social housing is one that Clúid tenants and staff encounter every day.”

According to the report: “There is strong evidence that, due to the impact of social housing policy and other factors, residualisation of the Irish social rented sector has operated in an uneven fashion and as a result some social rented neighbourhoods are more stigmatised than others.”

“Particularly in large estates, residents tended to have strongest bonds with their immediate neighbourhoods and had a more informed, fine-grained perspective on the concentration of problems such as anti-social behaviour within their neighbourhood than outsiders. As a result, in residents’ eyes at least, some parts of these large estates were more stigmatised than others.”

It suggests changes to the built environment, good transport networks, and mixed tenure can help combat stigmatisation of social housing areas, changing perceptions of areas away from ideas that they are rife with anti-social behaviour and instead focusing on community spirit.

Among the case studies, “Social renters from Clarion Quay argued that the complex’s mixed tenure nature coupled with its location in a mixed tenure neighbourhood helped mitigate risk of stigmatisation. Fatima Mansions residents agreed that the introduction of private housing during the estate’s regeneration and implementation of an image change strategy at this time helped to reduce its stigmatisation.”

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney launched the report, stating the Rebuilding Ireland programme would result in more mixed tenure developments.

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