The head of a housing association has called for a graphic “dead baby on the beach” opportunity to persuade a doubting public to accept social housing tenants as neighbours. Kate Davies, the £200,000-a-year CEO of Notting Hill Housing, said the deaths of “some beautiful young children” would help to defeat prejudice against state-subsidised tenants.
Her comments come just a week after the world was shocked by the image of drowned three-year-old Aylan Kurdi being held in the arms of a Turkish policeman after he was found washed ashore from a sunken migrant boat.
According to the Daily Mail, Miss Davies complained that even “respectable” people object when they learn that there are plans to build council or housing association homes nearby – and suggested a way to change attitudes.
“Now, you see a dead baby on the beach in Turkey and the attitude to refugees changes overnight,” she said.
“Because somehow that connected to people personally in a way that lots of other people dying as refugees had not.
“And in housing I think we need two things.
“Either we need an appalling fire where some beautiful young children die, or a riot. We have to get people to feel differently about housing.”
Miss Davies’s comments came at a conference at the five-star Celtic Manor hotel near Newport, South Wales, The chairman of the discussion, BBC journalist Mark Easton, immediately challenged her but she refused to recant.
Instead she repeated her view that “we need a disaster or a riot” to drive public acceptance of subsidised housing.
According to the Mail, the public school-educated housing chief has faced controversy before during her stewardship of Notting Hill Housing, which runs 30,000 homes.
Her husband Nick Johnson left a job at Bexley Council in London with a £300,000 pay-off and a £50,000 pension in 2007 after being assessed as permanently unfit to work.
Four months later he took a £260,000-a-year job as chief of a housing association financed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council. This led to ‘fat cat’ accusations being made against the couple.
Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford, former leader of Wandsworth Council, responded to Miss Davies’s comments by saying: “I am quite appalled. These are extraordinary words.”