Developing effective housing management policies to address problems of antisocial behaviour

Summary

Many tenants expect housing managers to play a significant role in addressing anti-social behaviours on public housing estates, but policies that include a mix of preventative strategies and sanctions are most effective when there is cross-agency support.

Project Number: 40163
Research Theme(s): Public and community housing
Project Leader: Jacobs, Keith
Funding Year: 2002
Research Centre: Southern

Description

This project entailed a set of overlapping research strands that together should provide State housing agencies with the evidence base to develop effective forms of intervention to address anti-social behaviour (ASB). These strands included a literature review of international research on ASB, an investigation into the extent to which ASB is perceived to be a problem, an audit of current practices, two distinct case studies (across different stock sizes and locations) that collate the views of the key stakeholders (tenants, law enforcement agencies, housing staff and community representatives). The final research report included a good-practice section that can be utilised by housing authority staff within each State.

The research contributes to the AHURI research objectives by progressing the recent debate about the problems of ASB, by providing policy makers with appropriate definitional guidance and advancing the most effective responses that are sensitive to the needs of the communities that reside in public housing estates. In particular, it aimed to enable housing authorities to draw from international experience in this area and from good practices undertaken by State housing authorities. The term anti-social behaviour is a generic term to describe activities that range from dropping litter to serious forms of harassment. It is widely understood that ASB can destroy the quality of lives of residents and undermine community cohesion. Although not exclusive to housing estates its consequences can be most pernicious for communities that are already vulnerable.

Efforts to address ASB usually take three forms:

  1. Prevention - for example, changing the built environment to minimise opportunities for crime; allocation policies to secure more stable communities whilst not discriminating against specific groups; coordinating services and interaction between agencies involved in tackling ASB.
  2. Redress - action taken after ASB has taken place. Usually this involves law enforcement agencies targeting individual tenants who have been deemed to act unlawfully or action by housing agencies should there be evidence that tenancy agreements have been seriously breached.
  3. Victim Support - in some instances efforts are made to support individual victims of ASB.

Without effective intervention housing estates can quickly fall into a spiral of decline that is very difficult to reverse. As well as the impact on individuals and communities, ASB results in significant costs, for example on repairs, management and maintenance. For these reasons there is increasing pressure on housing agencies to respond to tenants concerns about ASB in a sensitive manner and with the support of the community.