18/04/2018 22:30 BST | Updated 18/04/2018 23:48 BST

Tenants' Tsar Needed To Protect Renters' Rights Post-Grenfell, Says Labour

Tower block residents repeatedly told power-holders the building was a fire hazard.

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Labour is pushing for a series of housing reforms after the Grenfell fire 

A tenants’ tsar and extending Freedom Of Information law to cover housing associations form part of post-Grenfell housing reforms to be unveiled by Labour. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s party is proposing a series of measures to better protect social housing residents, including forcing landlords to carry out fire safety tests, after the devastating North Kensington inferno claimed the lives of 71 people in June 2017. 

In the wake of the tragic blaze, it emerged that residents had repeatedly raised fears that the tower block was a fire hazard with power-holders.

A criminal investigation and a judge-led public inquiry into what caused the blaze are underway, but the local authority opting for a cheaper, more flammable cladding which allowed the fire to spread more quickly is widely accepted to be a key factor. 

Corbyn and Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey will unveil their housing green paper to fix the “broken” system which sees tenants ignored on Thursday. 

It includes: 

  • Fast-tracking reforms to allow tenants to take council and housing association landlords to court if their homes aren’t safe

  • An independent national organisation, headed up by a ‘tenants tsar’ Commissioner, to represent and champion their tenants’ rights 

  • Including fire safety as part of a ‘Decent Homes 2’ target for social landlords

  • Extending the Freedom of Information Act to housing associations to boost transparency in the social housing sector and ensuring regular fire safety reports are released to the public

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The Grenfell Tower fire claimed 71 lives

The two politicians will also put forward plans to link affordable house prices to average incomes, instead of allowing them to be dictated by local market values.

The announcement is alongside a pledge to build a million “genuinely affordable homes” over ten years – although the majority will be for social rent, not for sale.

But the Tories said Labour were over-promising on housing and could not deliver. 

Ahead of the launch, Corbyn said: “We need to restore the principle that a decent home is a right owed to all, not a privilege for the few. And the only way to deliver on that right for everyone, regardless of income, is through social housing. 

“When the post-war Labour government built hundreds of thousands of council houses in a single term in office, they transformed millions of people’s lives.

“This Green Paper will look at how to fix our broken housing system, so that it works for the many, not the few.”

The reforms were also praised by a number of independent organisations. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive of leading tenant engagement organisation Tpas, said: “Tpas welcomes the Labour Housing Review and it’s ambition to invest in much needed social housing and ensure more homes are available to people at realistic affordable rents.

“We welcome the focus on a return to sustaining mixed communities and to ensuring that tenants have a genuine and respected role of involvement with their landlords.” 

David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, a body representing housing associations, added: “[This plan] sets out an important package of measures which recognise the vital role that housing associations play in building the genuinely affordable and quality homes the country needs.”

He added: “This paper should be the catalyst for further important conversations between the sector and the Labour Party and we look forward to working with them on this.”

 But Tory MP Dominic Raab, the Government’s Housing Minister, said: “Labour always make big promises, and always fail to deliver them.

“In London, the Labour Mayor has not built the affordable homes that he promised. And Labour would kick away the housing ladder from everyone living in council houses by taking away their Right to Buy, just as Labour did in Wales.

“Under the Conservatives, we are investing £9 billion to build more good quality homes that people can afford and have seen the highest number of new homes being built for a decade.”