Malthouse plea: ‘End poverty porn TV’

At HCLG committee session, housing minister says media has a responsibility to shape more positive perceptions of social housing.

Kit Malthouse 2

Kit Malthouse has urged an end to ‘poverty porn’ TV and other media portrayals of social housing as a source of problems.

Appearing before the HCLG committee, Malthouse acknowledged the “challenge” inherent in tackling stigma around social housing and its tenants.

Where that challenge could initially be met through management initiatives around repairs and integration, media, he said, had a wider responsibility to temper the ‘language’ around social housing and the spread of perception.

Stigma around social housing was a key issue to emerge during consultations over the Social Housing Green Paper.

The session was strong on aspiration as opposed to actuality, with Malthouse stressing a need to take the tenant body with whatever reform arose out of the Green Paper.

Reform, he said, should not alienate tenants broadly satisfied with providers.

And engagement was “notoriously difficult” to measure, he said – effectively throwing the initiative back at providers.

Where funding for a decent homes standard would be a product of what comes out of the Green Paper, Malthouse outlined his ideal as a standard applicable across the public and private sector housing offer.

On building targets, Malthouse stressed need for long-term signals on housing investment to the public and private sector to secure supply chains in the face of competition from other infrastructure projects.

But modular, though, represented a “huge opportunity” for housing building, he said, outlining MHCLG initiatives underway to promote off-site construction activity.

Malthouse drew back, slightly, on the introduction of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or so-called league tables for housing providers – as floated by the Green Paper – when tenants could not just “up sticks” to go elsewhere if their provider didn’t meet KPIs.

Telling the committee tenant focused answers may emerge from transparency and engagement work now underway, Malthouse said Government could use KPIs to define grant provision for providers or introduce KPIs applicable at national, regional or local level.

The committee expressed a concern, acknowledged by Malthouse, that providers would ‘play up’ to KPIs.

Though Malthouse made no commitment to a single homes ombudsman – in the face of competing regulatory interest – he confirmed the concept of a housing court was subject to a “call for evidence”.

He saw as a concern the fact that so many constituency MPs were now being drawn into the resolution of tenant/landlord disputes.

While there was no specific funding for sprinklers in tower blocks as there is for issues around ACM cladding, if a council made a case to MHCLG for sprinkler funding there would, he said, be a “grown up conversation”.

The session wrapped up with a question on Brexit and its impact on EIB housing funding.

Malthouse said that with a deal be believed existing loan commitments would continue as future participation was negotiated.

But without a deal the future for such funding was not so clear, he said.

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