It’s a complicated business, housing. Those poor souls at the Policy Exchange and their pollsters YouGov apparently can’t tell the difference between social housing and council housing. Despite generating alarming headlines (‘Public backs limit to social housing areas’ – thanks, Inside Housing) a glance at the detail of the poll (and the base data, entitled ‘Fairness’ presumably with a touch of irony) shows just a little confusion. Although the discussion in the Policy Exchange report ‘Just Deserts’ is about social housing, the actual questions asked were about council housing. Just as well they didn’t wander into the fantasy world of ‘Affordable Rent’?*
Strange questions they were too. “People should not be offered council houses that are worth more than the average house in their local authority” Agree or disagree? Despite requiring considerable knowledge – what is the average, how do council houses compare in value, might there be a different answer for housing associations, does this ever happen in reality? – the question is really quite leading. So no surprise that a majority say they agree. It tells us very little about public attitudes to council houses, and nothing whatsoever about public attitudes to housing association properties to rent (because they weren’t asked about that).
And the second question was “People should not be offered council housing in expensive areas” Agree or disagree? Also rather leading and confusing.
This selection of questions tells me more about Policy Exchange and the point they wanted to make in the first place. I suspect they know – and if they don’t, YouGov should – that if you ask positive questions about mixed and balanced communities you get very different answers. But that wouldn’t fit PEx’s obsession with contradicting the pro-equality conclusions in The Spirit Level, would it?
*PS I’ve started calling ‘Affordable Rent’ SCARE tenancies – standing for So-Called Affordable REnt. Will it catch on?