A housing association which compels residents to sign up to an ‘ambition plan’ when they apply for tenancy has been criticised for being patronising and attempting "social engineering."
Yarlington Housing Group which manages 9,000 homes in Somerset, has asked residents to sign the plans, which include quitting smoking, losing weight and managing their money, when they apply for a seven year fixed tenancy.
The customer guide states that if they "feel uncomfortable" with the scheme they will be advised to bid for homes offered by other housing providers who do not have a similar policy.
It adds: "we will look at your progress you have made with your housing ambition plan when we consider the renewal of your tenancy at the end of your seven year fixed period."
Chief Executive Gary Orr said it was about going beyond a "bricks and mortar" service and allowing tenants to realise their own potential. He said no one would be evicted if they didn't manage to fulfil their ambitions.
Lisa Jenkins, Lettings Officer, who has been working with tenants in Chard said "All my customers have been happy to participate and receptive to the idea behind it. They liked the idea of a landlord wanting their tenants to be the best that they can be and were impressed with how proactive we were in supporting people."
Bromford Group, who run a similar scheme - The Deal- described the way the relationship works as “something for something”.
They told Inside Housing: "We promise to provide customers with great services and great places to live in. In return customers promise to keep to all of their tenancy responsibilities."
However the plans have been received less warmly on social networks and from housing recipients.
Michael Gelling, chairman of the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisation of England, told the Independent the scheme was at risk of branding housing residents as part of a "social underclass." He said: “You can’t tell me not to smoke if I smoke, or not to drink if I drink or how to live my life. I’m not a social underclass. I’m a human being.
"This has been drawn up by people in well-paid jobs sipping wine on their verandas saying ‘we’ve sorted the underclass out’. I don’t think it would stand up in court.”
On Twitter, it was branded "breathtakingly patronising" while another posted, tongue-firmly-in-cheek: "Yarlington Housing can have my ciggy from my cold, dead, slightly yellowy-stained fingers, the patronising w**kers
Nick Fry, Yarlington’s Assistant Director for Housing and Customer Service, said in a statement: "Yarlington don’t just want to provide homes for people - our passion is about building communities. As new tenants are no longer offered a lifetime tenancy it’s important they plan carefully for the future. We can now support residents and their families to reach their potential by helping them achieve their ambitions and becoming part of a vibrant community."
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