By Tom Norris

SCOTLAND strives to be a fair and equal society. As true as that may be, we’re battling long-standing misconceptions and stigma about some of the people and communities who make our country what it is today.

The stigmatisation of social housing and the people who call it home is just one example.

It’s a sad state of affairs that some of us in Scotland still judge one another not on the contribution we make to those around us, our neighbourhoods and wider society, but on how we pay for the roof over our heads (if we’re lucky enough to have one).

A recent survey found that two-thirds of people in Scotland believe that stigma still exists when it comes to social housing. Around a third think the quality is poor – which is not true – and a further 40 per cent believe that neighbourhoods with social housing have higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour. Again, simply wrong and a belief that appears to spring from an outdated perception of our communities.

Could it be that people misjudge social housing and its tenants because they simply don’t live in a community with social housing? It used to be that social housing was the housing of choice not long ago, but the right to buy scheme depleted Scotland’s social housing supply. It became a scarcity – something for only the most in need, rather than a right.

So, when did we become so judgemental? At a time when people’s budgets are being squeezed and many are struggling to cope with rising costs, we can’t let ourselves away with this.

Think to yourself, have you ever judged someone because you think they live in a less desirable area? Have you ever second-guessed moving somewhere because you heard there is a lot of social housing in that area, or that it would be built nearby? Have you objected to new social homes being built in your local area?

If we judge people by how they pay for their home – what kind of society does that make us?

The cost of living is hitting people hard. Concerningly, everything is pointing toward the situation getting a lot worse before it gets better. That means more people are going to be looking for help with housing, and for some, that will be social housing, the kind provided by a local council or a housing association. That’s a good thing – helping people to have a decent home at a cost that is manageable. The truth is, Scotland needs more housing of every tenure. To achieve that will require the political will and determination to deliver more homes, at pace. Social housing will be an integral part of that.

Our country needs more, not less, social housing, and to recognise the valuable role it plays in supporting people to live their best lives. Let’s not judge someone because of it, we never know when we might find ourselves needing a helping hand too.

Tom Norris is managing director of Places for People Scotland