Findings from new research on rehousing programmes for older social renters may help address inner-city housing shortages by offering recommendations on how to improve rehousing experiences and achieve positive outcomes for tenants and communities.
Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield, in collaboration with Hackney Council, have conducted a study of how well rehousing programmes for older social housing tenants in Hackney are working. They looked at Hackney Council’s Downsizing and Regeneration programmes, as well as the Greater London Authority’s Seaside and Country Homes and Housing Moves programmes.
The study revealed some challenges around rehousing, such as substantial constraints on tenant choice, and tenants’ new homes not meeting their expectations. The personalised support that is available in the rehousing process is valued greatly by tenants and needs to be sustained and, where appropriate, strengthened. Scope remains for better communication with tenants, including on their rehousing options, and the implications of a move. While many older social renters felt that moving had impacted positively on their health and wellbeing, rehousing experiences also sometimes entailed the breaking up of established relationships and communities.
Central to the study was a method known as ‘Photovoice’: Older social renters took photographs that they felt captured significant aspects of their moves through a rehousing programme, and discussed them in depth with the researchers. The participants’ photographs illustrated where rehousing programmes had worked well, and where improvements are needed.
A participant in Hackney’s Downsizing Programme had struggled with the prolonged process of her move, and the uncertainty it entailed. While her new home was in some ways not what she had hoped for, it did provide her with the opportunity to accommodate a hobby that was very important to her.
“I’ve been told … that this flat is actually what would be classed as a two person, one bedroom flat. So, it’s a little bit bigger than the average one person flat. But effectively, I live in one room, because it’s a kitchen living room.”
“… you can see a kiln, and there’s a wheel. … I’ve been a potter on and off for the last 20-odd years, but only in education. I thought, “I can afford to get this set up here now. It’s all flat. There’s nowhere for me to have to drag stuff upstairs.” (Participant in Hackney’s Downsizing Programme)”
A former Hackney tenant particularly appreciated that the Greater London Authority’s Seaside & Country Homes Programme had enabled him to move to an environment where he was able to enjoy a sense of space, and the absence of traffic and pollution.
“it really is beautiful. … We’ve got the only sandy beach on this side of Devon. … Once again, it shows that even in a place like that, there’s virtually zero traffic. Again, no tower blocks, just peaceful, clean air, and not overcrowded. This was on a really nice day as well.” (Participant in the Seaside & Country Homes Programme)
The study highlighted that as well as shaping the lives and wellbeing of individual tenants, rehousing progammes can, and do, affect communities. The Regeneration programme on the Woodberry Down estate in Hackney was seen as disruptive to a once close-knit community. At the same time, it gave older social housing tenants the opportunity to achieve benefits for the community. Some were instrumental in bringing about the construction of a highly successful Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA). The MUGA is heavily used by local children and teenagers, who particularly appreciate the training provided by Arsenal Football Club.
“That’s the Multi-Use Games Area … It’s the best thing has happened. … They weren’t too keen on doing this, the developer, but no developer would be. … So, we had to struggle a bit, but we got there. … We’ve got Arsenal coming down, they’ll train the kids here two evenings a week” (Participant in a Regeneration programme in Hackney)
Older social renters on Woodberry Down also drove an initiative to open up a local reservoir that had been closed to the public, for the benefit of the local community and the environment.
“That’s the Wetlands. … That was the reservoir, no one had been able to get into for 300 years. We managed to get it opened … It’s free to go over there, they’ve got a café, … since it’s opened they’ve had round about 200,000 people a year use it. … four years ago, Sir David Attenborough opened it.” (Participant in a Regeneration programme in Hackney)
The study was showcased in a public photo exhibition at the Redmond Community Centre in Hackney from 17–19th May 2022. The exhibition was launched by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and a number of Hackney Councillors. Explore the exhibition online.
A national workshop with decision makers and frontline staff was held on 26th May to enable the study findings to inform housing policy and practice.
The research team have produced a video with more information about the study that captures tenant testimonies as well as professional perspectives. Watch the video below and let us know what you think by completing a short questionnaire.
Dr Stefanie Buckner, who led the study, said:
Rehousing programmes for older social renters provide an important means to address inner-city housing shortages, while at the same time ensuring that tenants live in suitable homes. In order to maximise the opportunities they offer, it is critical that they work well for tenants and communities. This study has given us important insights into where rehousing programmes have worked well, and where improvements are needed. We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that the findings can inform housing policy and practice in Hackney and beyond.
For further information, please contact Dr Stefanie Buckner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about this research project
Research Briefing – Rehousing programmes for older social housing tenants in Hackney, London