By John Lubbock, Wikimedia UK Communications Coordinator
There’s been a lot of discussion over the past six months about housing policy in the UK, and the rumblings of discontent about the housing crisis that is particularly affecting London and the South East have been going on for years. I used to work as a community organiser on a former council estate in South London, so in early July I decided to start the Social Housing in the United Kingdom WikiProject. Two weeks later, the Grenfell Tower fire happened.
Wikipedia’s role in these kind of policy questions is to summarise the available information into an easily searchable introduction to the topic. We seek to provide a neutral summary of information which will help people discuss the subject and encourage people to find solutions. The conversation about how to deal with the housing crisis is long overdue, and it is a shame that it took a tragedy like Grenfell to finally put it on the political agenda. All we can hope to do is to give people the resources to have that discussion in the most productive way. This is what we did when we edited pages about the EU before the referendum last year, though sadly the pages received the biggest spike in traffic the day after the vote.
That’s why I began talking to Paul Watt, a lecturer in housing policy at Birkbeck, around a year ago. Paul writes and speaks about the history of housing and has a good collection of photos he has taken himself over the years which we hope to make available on Wikimedia Commons so that they can be used to improve articles. I hope to be able to organise a Housing editathon in 2018 to engage people who are interested in the topic to learn how to edit Wikipedia and improve related pages.
There are a few things you can do if you would like to help this project progress:
- Add your name to the list of participants at the bottom of the Wikiproject
- Help expand the list of articles needing improvement or creation
- Upload photos of social housing to Wikimedia Commons
- Get in touch with us if you need help, advice, or would like to help organise an event
Editing Wikipedia means that your efforts may be read by policymakers and people in the housing sector who may have influence over the future development of social housing in the UK. Your old photos of social housing areas could have historical value and be seen by thousands of people searching for information about them online. We would like to contribute to the development of better policy on housing, but we can’t do it without your help, so let us know if you want to get involved via one of the links below.