My family and I started our lockdown on 12 March when me and my then 10 month old son developed symptoms of coronavirus. A little before national restrictions came into place, me, my partner and our two small children started to self-isolate in our two bedroom flat in South East London.
We’ve always loved our home and feel incredibly lucky, but without a garden or balcony we have also heavily relied on playgrounds, soft plays, children’s centres and swimming pools to keep our children active. So like many families, we had to find a new rhythm of working, living, eating, playing, exercising and sleeping within our four walls. If you would’ve asked me then, I would’ve predicted that twelve weeks on I would find our space oppressive and restricted, but in fact I just feel more grateful than ever that our flat is a safe and secure home.
Stories of changing relationships with the places we live won’t be unusual, but for many people the experience will not be as positive as mine. The pandemic has highlighted again the need for high quality, beautiful, affordable homes. Not least for many of the people most affected by this crisis - two million low paid key workers living in the private rented sector, rough sleepers helped off the streets, homeless families in temporary accommodation, older people in unsupported homes, people suffering domestic abuse, and families stuck in overcrowded conditions. Where I got to truly understand the meaning of sanctuary, for other people “home” has become a prison.
Meanwhile, the world outside our flats, houses, hotel rooms and hostels is becoming more and more uncertain. To their fears about the virus, people now add new worries about their livelihoods and living costs.
You may know from Will Jeffwitz’ blog in late April that the NHF has been exploring how social housing and housing associations can be a route out of this crisis. We’ve been working with members to identify the policy solutions that would help England’s homes and communities emerge stronger than they were before.
But we have also heard loud and clear that there has never been a more important time to make a public case for social housing.
As a sector, we know that social housing can be the answer to so many of the challenges our society faces. Public investment in social housing boosts the economy and creates jobs. New social homes help families who are homeless or living in poverty, while helping people to live independently at home improves health and wellbeing. We now need to make sure this message is heard and understood across the country.
That is why later this month we will be launching a new campaign to state a clear vision – that social housing must be at the heart of the recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
We will capture the heart of all the good social housing brings to this country, both economically and socially. We’ll bring together partners who share that vision and who represent the breadth and depth of our society and economy. And we will target our message to the decision makers in the government who can make our policy goals a reality. It won’t be easy, but with the right will and enough investment the coronavirus crisis could become a real catalyst for positive change in our country – and that change can start with homes.
We look forward to sharing a campaign plan and details about how to get involved with our members very soon. To find out more or share your thoughts in the meantime, get in touch.