Cathy at 50: My social housing story

22 November 2016 | 22 November 2016

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November marks the fiftieth anniversary of the controversial Ken Loach TV show, Cathy Come Home, which sparked widespread outrage across the country at how easy it is to slip into homelessness. To mark the occasion Bryn Shorey, Safety and Compliance Director, talks about how he found his passion for social housing.

I’ve worked in property for 20 years, but my passion for housing stems from my grandparents who lived in social housing which was owned by the local authority. They had lived in basic council housing accommodation since the early 1950s, modern for the time that it was built, but by the late 1970s, it had not been updated.kenloachblog

It obviously had an impact on me at an early stage in my life, and this made me think about people who lived in homes that had not been modernised and how I could make a difference for people like them.

After the war, there was an increase in social housing, and in 1945 my grandparents were one of the first to benefit from a local authority home.

My father’s parents had five children living in a three-bedroom house, no central heating, hot water provided by a coal-fired back boiler, draughty single glazed timber windows and doors, and an outside toilet.

I remember as a young child going to stay with them and getting used to there being no heating and being wrapped in blankets and eiderdown when going to bed as it was cold.

When you come into social housing and have an idea of what it once was like, you can understand what it means to live in a warmer, safer home.

Looking at my past 20 years in housing makes me think that the future for housing is difficult, the number of people in need is greater than the number of affordable homes being built.  When my grandfather came back from the Second World War, there was plenty of land to build on and governments that were keen to provide really affordable social housing.

Now, the population has increased substantially compared to the number of affordable houses being built, and we are suffering from a shortage of supply. In the past, it was all about the local authorities; house building is a little more complicated now.

There are too few affordable homes to rent and too many unaffordable private rentals. Housing needs to be more strategic in Government and viewed as a part of the infrastructure, like roads and rail.

Over the years of working in housing, I have seen our stock of homes move from not being well maintained to being really well maintained with all homes meeting the Decent Homes Standard and new homes being built to the latest nationally approved standard.

I grew up in a home that my parents were able to buy when they married, but my grandparents stayed in their council house until they passed away. My motivation stems from their experiences and the satisfaction I feel at being able to make a difference to the lives of people like my grandparents.