The role of security in social housing

Vivienne Taylor, Specifications Manager for Yale Door and Window Solutions, considers social attitudes surrounding mixed-tenure housing, and the impact that has on security design and decision-making.

For most housebuilders and developers, involvement with social housing has traditionally occurred through two routes.  Firstly, through section 106 agreements. Or, for a small number, through direct involvement in the construction of new social housing - although as figures show this has become a static market due to issues around funding.


When involved with social housing through section 106, housebuilders and developers will often be dealing with mixed tenure developments, consisting of both social housing and privately owned homes.  This presents a unique set of challenges.


There is often a social attitude, whether real or perceived, that the presence of social tenants brings with it an increase in antisocial behaviour, and owner-occupiers can be concerned that this will have a negative impact on the value of their property.


A report from the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland which looks at, “The challenges of developing and managing mixed tenure housing”*, says that:


“In relation to management issues, particular challenges have been encountered around managing owners’ expectations about the landlord/factor ‘dealing with’ anti social behaviour caused by – or perceived as being caused by – social housing tenants.” Although the report is from 2012, this is still an issue that applies across the UK today, but it is important to note the difference between reality and perception.


If it is a reality, then improved security can provide real solutions for some of these anti social behaviours. If it’s perception though, a so-called tenure blind approach - where all houses are made similar in design so as to mask the type of occupancy - is said to be crucial to the success of a mixed tenure development.


Regardless of whether perception or misperception, many social issues can be mitigated, or avoided all together, by the clever use of thought-out security. By also approaching this in a tenure blind way, residents will feel that all properties have the same high level of protection in place, whether social housing or private tenure.


The design of the housing development should also be considered more broadly. The use of light open spaces, along with good perimeter security can make a big difference. The presence of CCTV and alarm systems can also go a long way to helping people to feel safer.


Fitting proven, secure door and window locks as standard helps to make people feel protected. This particularly applies to blocks of flats with split-levels, as not only will the communal entrance need to be considered, but there also must be the appropriate level of security at each different floor of the building.


External timber doors should be secured using a mortice lock and/or nightlatch that meets British Standard BS3621. For a PVCu or composite door it is a good idea to upgrade the euro profile cylinder in the multipoint lock to a British Standard TS007 3 star Kitemark cylinder.  All windows – upstairs and downstairs – should have at least one appropriate lock.


An example of one of the security issues being faced is that of follow on crime, where a resident has been followed into a building. This can be a particular issue in communal buildings such as flats. Out of natural politeness people often assume that someone has the right to be in the building and may leave the door open behind them to allow access. Letting someone into a building can result in nuisance door to door callers dropping leaflets through letterboxes, or in the worst-case scenarios, it could also lead to opportunist theft, or even stalking. If someone is being stalked or harassed then they may need to access a building quickly, with the door locking securely behind them so that the pursuer cannot follow. This demonstrates the important role which security plays.


A general focus must be given to reducing opportunistic crime. An example of one such crime is lock snapping. This requires little or no experience or skill, meaning that many properties are at risk of attack. Relying on sheer brute force, using simple tools such as hammers or screwdrivers to snap the lock, it has been shown that criminals can gain access to a property in just 15 seconds. 


Developed in conjunction with the Door and Hardware Federation, the TS007 standard is designed to combat lock snapping and offers comparable levels of cylinder security to those already found in complete door assemblies rated to PAS 24 and complete lock assemblies rated to BS and PAS 3621/10621.


By fitting well-known security solutions from trusted brands, such as TS007 accredited cylinders to combat lock snapping, reassurance is provided to both private occupiers and tenants that their homes are secure.


Social housing is built to meet the same exacting building regulations of any new build. It is often the case that even higher standards are required than the private equivalents, and more demanding sustainability targets are set. This is due to more attention being given to the issue of lifetime costing because the landlord is responsible for the maintenance and repairs over the whole lifetime of the building.  This factor is just one of the reason why standardising on a limited range of security products, such as door and window locks, can be a real advantage as it will make identification of parts and availability of replacements much easier in the future.


In reality the security issues surrounding social housing are no more onerous than normal private tenure housing if given sufficient thought ahead of time, and if a planned consistent approach is considered. By factoring in such assurances as meeting the required standards, the occupier - whether social tenant or private owner - can be provided with the confidence that their home is safe and secure.


For an up to date door and window specification, including all relevant British Standards, Building Regulations and requirements, please contact the Specification team on 07702 555047.