Queen’s Speech

AT LAST, some positive news about social housing. A major Rowntree report published today shows that the fortunes of unpopular estates can not just be turned around but that the gap between them and neighbouring areas can also be narrowed. Go here for a summary and here to download a PDF of the full report.

Researchers at the London School of Economics looked at progress on 20 unpopular estates in England over the 25 years between 1980 and 2005. Based on interviews with housing managers and residents conducted in the 1980s, 1990s and last year, it concludes that most of them have turned the tide: 16 had seen continuing improvements since 1995; two were facing major redevelopment; and two had seen progress halted or reversed.

The report shows that improvements in housing management, diversification of ownership and capital investment have had a positive impact. Resident satisfaction levels were close to the average for social housing, housing management performance had improved and fewer homes were empty.

The improvements were underpinned by wider economic and social changes. Unemployment on the estates fell from 34% of residents in 1991 to 16% in 2001. GCSE performance at schools linked to the estates improved faster than the national average between 1994 and 2004.

However, the report also warns against complacency and cautions that some of the improvements may be linked to high national employment rates and a strong housing market, which may not be sustained. In addition, while unemployment has fallen, the proportion of residents who are economically inactive has risen.