POLITICS

'Fundamental' Review Of Social Housing To Be Carried Out In Light Of Grenfell Tragedy, Sajid Javid Announces

'Too many people in positions of power saw tenants less as people with families and more as problems that needed to be managed.'

19/09/2017 11:43 BST | Updated 19/09/2017 14:21 BST
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A “top-to-bottom” review of social housing is to be carried out, Sajid Javid announced today in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.

The Communities and Local Government Secretary revealed the plan as he told a conference of social landlords many of those who lived in the West London tower block were treated like “problems that needed to be managed” after raising safety concerns.

Javid argued the review of social housing was needed as it was less likely such a blaze would have happened in a “privately owned block of luxury flats”.

Speaking at the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in Birmingham, the Communities and Local Government Secretary vowed the green paper “will be the most substantial report of its kind for a generation” and carry out “a wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector”. 

Reflecting on the Grenfell tragedy, in which more than 80 people died after a fire swept through a west London tower block, Javid said: “While I don’t want to pre-judge the findings of the public or police inquiries, it’s clear that in the months and the years before the fire the residents of Grenfell Tower were not listened to.

“That their concerns were ignored or dismissed.

“That too many people in positions of power saw tenants less as people with families and more as problems that needed to be managed.”

Javid argued some of the criticism of social landlords after Grenfell has been “unfair”, but added: “The question I keep coming back to is very simple.

“In one of the richest, most privileged corners of the UK – the world, even – would a fire like this have happened in a privately owned block of luxury flats?

“If you believe that the answer is no, even if you think it was simply less likely, then it’s clear that we need a fundamental rethink of social housing in this country.”

The investigation will look into the overall quality of social homes, service management, the way social homes and their tenants are taken care of and the rights of tenants.

He said: “If a resident reports a crack in the wall that you can fit your hand in, big enough to use as a book shelf, it shouldn’t just be patched up and ignored.

“The reason it’s there and the impact it could have need to be properly investigated.

“Problems shouldn’t just be fixed, they should be learned from.

“These are the kind of issues the green paper will explore.”

A report from the National Housing Federation published ahead of its annual conference blasted the Government for the “absurd” low level of spending on house building, with the amount falling from £11.4billion in 2009 to £5.3billion in 2015.

Alongside this, the Government funded the building of just 944 homes for social rent in 2016/17 - down from 39,492 in 2009.

National Housing Federation

David Orr, the chief executive of the Federation – which represents housing associations who are social landlords to over 2.7 million homes – said the Grenfell tragedy shows “this crisis can no longer be ignored.”

Orr welcomed Javid’s announcement of the Green Paper, and said: “We share the Government’s ambition to make social housing a badge of honour for the nation. But there are things we can and must do right now – like restarting public investment in good quality, genuinely affordable housing.

Immediately reallocating the unspent £1.1billion for Starter Homes would be a step in the right direction, and would in turn bring the housing benefit bill down. We look forward to working in partnership with Government and delivering homes of all kinds for people on low income.

Pointing to the fact the UK is falling short of building the 250,000 homes a year needed to meet demand, Federation’s report reads: “What we really need is to build more homes for social rent. Homes that offer safety and security to families that are struggling to make ends meet. Homes for the poorest and most in need. And for that to happen on the scale needed, government investment in homebuilding is vital.”