In the context of housing, tenure means ‘the conditions under which property is occupied’. Domestic properties – homes – may be owned outright or secured on a mortgage; or rented from the local authority, housing association, registered social landlord, perhaps from a private owner; or they may be subject to a shared ownership agreement.
These represent the principal forms of housing tenure, the keywords being owned and rented. In a mixed tenure development, owned and rented homes share the same locality as a matter of planning.
A recognisable prescription for a mix of housing can be traced to the Victorian reformer Octavia Hill. Aneurin Bevan, the first minister after the Second World War to carry the brief for housing, talked passionately of mixed communities.
It was not until the 1970s, however, that the mixed tenure idea was officially embraced. The policy of supplying those with the greatest need had led to the segregation of social housing. Large housing estates were in rapid decline, becoming increasingly stigmatised and prone to social residualisation.
In 1980, Right To Buy was introduced nationally. The legislation allowed tenants to purchase their council homes. Mixed tenure as a specific approach may be said to have come of age during the 1990s, and it is now firmly embedded in government strategy.
Mixed tenure is intended to do two things. One is to break up or avoid concentrations of social deprivation. The other is a means of delivering new or replacement social housing as part of the package when developers are given planning permission to build private homes.
Accordingly, by bringing together social groups that are not so distant on the overall social scale, groups whose principal difference is tenure status, neighbourhood image is improved. A raised proportion of owner occupiers is expected to increase commitment to an area. Population turnover (‘churn’) is reduced. In the language of planners, a ‘sustainable community’ is created.
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows local authorities to require developers to make a contribution towards affordable housing or other public facilities. This often means that a developer gets to build new houses for sale provided the same site sees some homes erected or refurbished for social renting.
Mixed tenure is sometimes viewed as a covert way of reducing council stock. The concept may be regarded as treating the symptoms of social deprivation rather than the causes – dispersal of poverty is cheaper than cure. While strategic planners endeavour to reduce concentrated deprivation on estates, housing departments continue to practise a ‘greatest needs’ allocation policy, which seeded the problem in the first place.
Researchers are almost united in advising that there is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of mixed tenure.
the best mix
Plausible suggestions for ideal tenure proportions are that dominance by any single tenure should not exceed 50%, which would produce an even split in many cases; or that the mix should mimic the national owned-to-rented ratio (close to 70:30), or the regional ratio. The government requirement is 60:40 for schemes it backs under the Private Finance Initiative. That is, for the objects to be achieved, private owners should exceed social renters by half again.
Properties of different tenure may be placed in separate streets, or parts of streets (coarse tenure grain). Alternatively, they are grouped within streets (fine tenure grain). Siting the homes for social renting in a corner of the estate may suit the estate agent selling the private units but the segregation runs contrary to the philosophy of mixed tenure and is observed to lead to widespread dissatisfaction.
Often considered to be the ultimate expression of the mixed tenure concept, enjoying significant support at a theoretical level, is ‘pepper-potting’, when owned and rented properties can be next door to one another. Councils and registered social landlords such as housing associations prefer ‘clustering’, because the properties are regarded as easier to manage.
Experience shows that the longer a scheme takes, the likelier that the actual mix will change from initial expectations. For example, if houses built for sale fail to attract individual purchasers, then the developer may have no choice but to sell to housing associations or other bodies which will rent out, thereby essentially altering the mix from planned.
Another threat to the ratio is the buy-to-let landlord, whose owned property translates to a renting household. On the other hand, renters from the council could over a period of time exercise Right To Buy, which would gradually increase ownership.
As a statistic, tenure mix may have little or no relevance to residents, but the consequences of a shifting mix can have a long-term impact.
Precisely because the principal difference between residents is tenure, a lot of planners are in favour of ‘tenure blind’ architecture. Houses for sale and houses built for the council to let are purposefully made similar in design so as to mask the tenures. The conviction is that tenure blind design helps social integration without affecting property prices.
Whether tenure masking is applied or not, properties will vary in size and sort. They may be ‘buffered’ to appear as a graduated range of different house types within the same street.
Quality of design and build of homes is cited over and again as crucial to success. As with any estate development, the spatial, environmental and infrastructure issues need to be be ironed out during the initial planning – design flaws and weaknesses can be difficult and expensive to rectify later.
Experience from elsewhere is undoubtedly valuable, though ‘off the shelf’ estate design is not necessarily to be relied upon and may be seen to ignore input from the local community.
Early phases of completion and release can shape the image and reputation of the whole development (“Is this what it’s going to be like?”). When a development is replacing an existing estate, carefully orchestrated phasing is essential in order to minimise the disturbance of residents.
Aware that costs are higher for mixed tenure, a developer might press for a density and house type inappropriate to the scheme’s aims. It is to the project leaders to maintain a clear vision and insist on its implementation.
Some developers (and, later, their selling agents) may play down the social housing content. This attitude is perhaps short-sighted since buyers at the ‘affordable’ end of the market are coming to accept that mixed tenure is unavoidable. It also produces a doubt about the overall quality of the estate.
Other developers, anxious for the outcome of the project to be a lasting advertisement, will advertise mixed tenure with openness.
This tenure is sometimes regarded as a cancer in housing provision. The landlord is unlikely to be professional nor have any interest in the neighbourhood where the property is let. Potentially, buy-to-let means high household turnover, poor maintenance, and little or no control over tenant behaviour.
One way of avoiding future problems is to insist on long-term agreements from private landlords relating to standards of management and maintenance.
registered social landlords
Organisations who buy for social renting are normally responsible landlords, though even housing associations can have a patchy record for quality of management, especially when directed from a distance. It may be advisable to establish a policy on bulk purchases of properties at the planning stage.
impact on adjacent areas
A flagship mixed tenure development could incline the local authority into a selective lettings policy for the social rented properties, excluding people with marks on their tenancy record. Such households displaced by the development may be allocated homes in adjacent areas. A concentration could create the very problems, albeit on another estate, of the kind that mixed tenure is supposed to alleviate.
the view of outsiders
Changing outsiders’ attitudes of a stigmatised area may take years. An important influence on reputation are the media. The area will receive promotion from the developer if houses for sale are to attract buyers.
cross tenure engagement
There is persuasive evidence that interaction between residents from different tenures and income groups in mixed areas is limited (children are more likely to form friendships). This does not mean households cannot share a neighbourhood environment when it is maintained to everyone’s satisfaction.
Planners tend to have an exaggerated picture of the benefits of social networking, and their desire for maximising inter-tenure contact is possibly misplaced. Indeed, contrived cross tenure engagement can have negative effects.
role model effect
One reason for a planners’ emphasis on cross tenure engagement is the belief that unemployed tenants may be persuaded into employment by observing owners. However, unemployment could be the result of a lack of suitable jobs or training, and maybe the social benefits structure acts against entering low pay employment.
The role model effect has not been seen to increase social capital within mixed tenure communities. A reverse role model effect is a possibility.
A common perception is that families are larger among social renters, and it is their children and young people who are more likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour. Evidence can always be found to support the perception.
Not all problems are caused by social renting residents, though they are easier to blame. To minimise the risk of anti-social behaviour on the new or regenerated estate, the local authority may apply selective allocation to its social housing stock.
Owners and renters have some different demands for services. Estate facilities, such as certain shops and leisure venues, are less likely to be used by owners whereas public transport is more likely to be used by social renters. A good match of services, and early provision, should be part of the forward planning.
the long term
When the physical transformation has been completed, estate management takes over. Management costs are normally higher for mixed tenure. There is the risk of unaffordability. Cross subsidy could be required through service charges, causing resentment from owners.
Mixed tenure to a 60:40 ratio will probably be a new experience for housing and environmental managers. During the planning and construction phases, a strong community involvement should emerge, one that could continue in the form of appropriate resident structures after the builders are gone.
Although official writing in support for the concept of mixed tenure is plentiful, formal research on outcomes is significantly less represented, and for schemes funded under the Private Finance Initiative it is virtually non-existent. The following references should be available online. Some items have been added since the preparation of this text.
ALLEN, Chris, CAMINA, Margaret, CASEY, Rionach,
COWARD, Sarah, and WOOD, Martin (2005)
Mixed Tenure Twenty Years On - Nothing out of the ordinary
Chartered Institute of Housing for Joseph Rowntree Foundation
BAILEY, Nick, and MANZI, Toni (2008)
Developing and sustaining mixed tenure housing developments
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Round-up, Reviewing the evidence
BOND, Lyndal, SAUTKINA, Elena, and KEARNS, Ade (2010)
Mixed Messages about Mixed Tenure: Do reviews tell the real story?
Housing Studies, iFirst article, 1–26, October 2010
CLARKE, Nicola (prep), and BOOKBINDER, David (ed) (2012)
The challenges of developing and managing mixed tenure housing
Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland
DOHERTY, Joe, MANLEY, David, GRAHAM, Elspeth,
HISCOCK, Rosemary, and BOYLE, Paul (2006)
Mixing housing tenures: Is it good for social well-being?
Centre for Housing Research, School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews
[draft – not for citation]
GREENHALGH, Stephen, and MOSS, John (2009)
Principles for Social Housing Reform
HARRISON, Sarah, and BURROWS, Kirsten (assist) (2015)
Tenure integration in housing developments:
A literature review
NHBC Foundation NF66
HILLS, John (2007)
Ends and Means: The future of social housing in England
Economic and Social Research Council Research Centre for analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), Report 34, February 2007
HOLMES, Chris (2006)
Mixed communities: success and sustainability
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Foundations Ref 0176
JUPP, Ben (1999)
Living Together: Community life on mixed tenure estates
KEARNS, Ade, McKEE, Martin, SAUTKINA, Elena,
WEEKS, George, and BOND, Lyndal (2013)
Mixed-Tenure Orthodoxy: Practitioner Reflections on Policy Effects
Cityscape, 15, 2, 47-68
LADDEN, E (2006/2007)
Mixed tenure sustainable communities
University of Portsmouth Bsc Property Marketing, Design and Development, ref. PMDD0706
MASON, Phil, and KEARNS, Ade
Mixed Tenure Communities and Neighbourhood Quality:
A study using Survey of English Housing and Census data
Presentation at ESDS Conference, London, 31 October 2011
ROWLANDS, Rob, MURIE, Alan, and TICE, Andrew (2006)
Developer and purchaser attitudes to new build mixed tenure housing
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
SAUTKINA, Elena, BOND, Lyndal, and KEARN, Ade (2012)
Mixed Evidence on Mixed Tenure Effects:
Findings from a Systematic Review of UK Studies, 1995–2009
Housing Studies, 27, 6
THORNHILL, JOHN (Editor) (2009)
Chartered Institute of Housing (Report by ECOTEC and CIH)
TUNSTALL, Rebecca (no date)
The promotion of ‘mixed tenure’: In search of the evidence base
[draft: not for quotation]
How much tenure mix is there in England, how has this changed 1981–2001 and what are the policy implications?”
Presented at ENHR conference, Toulouse, France, 5–8 July 2011
TUNSTALL, Rebecca, and FENTON, Alex (2006)
In the mix: A review of research on mixed income, mixed tenure and mixed communities
Housing Corporation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, English Partnerships