Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are calling for the regulation of social housing to be urgently reformed and the introduction of a watchdog that could jail negligent housing managers.
The calls for change are primarily led by Grenfell United, a group for survivors and the bereaved established following the tragedy. Chair, Natasha Elcock told supporters of plans for “…a movement to ensure that people up and down the country are listened to and are heard and are in a safe environment.”
Members of Grenfell United have contacted residents’ associations at other social housing blocks, calling for unity and support, encouraging tenants to sign up to their respective associations in order to amplify their voices. Supporters say they want changes as radical as those imposed on the banking industry following the financial crash of 2008.
This news comes alongside a cross-party commission’s revelation that more than 3 million social houses are needed in the next 20 years in order to prevent millions of people from having to live in dangerous, overcrowded or unsuitable homes.
The year-long commission, convened by charity Shelter was launched in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and its commissioners include former Labour leader Ed Miliband, Goldman Sachs chief economist Lord Jim O’Neill, former Conservative party chair, Sayeeda Warsi, justice campaigner and mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, Lady Doreen Lawrence and Edward Daffarn, a Grenfell resident who escaped from his 16th floor flat and had previously predicted in his blog that ‘only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.’
Daffarn is also a part of Grenfell United and supports the calls for regulation reform. He believes the current housing ombudsman and social housing regulator were not widely known by tenants.
“What we feel let us down at Grenfell was the lack of scrutiny,” he said, “they were safe in the knowledge that nobody was going to scrutinise them.”
He and Grenfell United want senior managers to have a statutory responsibility to keep their tenants safe as well as a more proactive regulator that will identify and rectify problems rather than just respond to complaints. “The change in culture won’t come about because of the impact of Grenfell, it will come from policy and regulation.” Daffarn maintained.
Housing secretary, James Brokenshire appears to be in support of Grenfell United’s demands saying he wanted to make social landlords more accountable and was aware of the need for increased regulation.
With stage two of the Grenfell Inquiry unlikely to commence this year, concerns are that the campaign for reform could lose momentum. During the first stage of the inquiry earlier this year, Grenfell residents revealed that Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation repeatedly ignored their concerns about the standards of the refurbishment that took place prior to the fire, ultimately resulting in the tower being wrapped in flammable cladding.
“Grenfell [Tower fire] wouldn’t have happened if we had been heard and respected,” Daffarn said “people are still not being listened to.”
Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors
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