I’ve had a number of conversations recently, both on Twitter and face-to-face, about the frustrations of people in social housing about the sector’s inability to influence public policy. There’s an awful lot of lobbying going on, but it doesn’t seem to be having anything like the desired effect.
Well, here’s an idea. How many people are there who work in social housing in the UK? I don’t know the figures, but I can guarantee you that it’s a fraction of the numbers who actually live in accommodation provided by the sector. And, it is also a fact that voter turnout at elections is lower in areas where incomes are low.
It therefore seems to me that, if the social housing sector wants to achieve policy changes sympathetic to its agenda, the most effective means might just be by putting more effort into ensuring that its tenants vote at elections, rather than by lobbying. And this strategy has the added bonus of being about enhancing democracy as well.
I am not suggesting social landlords should be influencing how their tenants vote; that would probably be counter-productive in any case. But I do think they should play a role in ensuring that their tenants are registered to vote and that they are enabled to vote when elections come around.
OK, so they might not all vote for the policies which the professionals want. That’s the risk you take with democratic processes. But I firmly believe the social housing sector would benefit greatly from a more politically engaged customer-base. They might not vote for social housing-sympathetic policies every time, but then again, they just might…