Industry news

Shelter launches new commission to give tenants a voice on social housing


ousing charity Shelter has launched an independent commission into the future of social housing as research has

highlighted the challenges faced by tenants in getting their views heard and their voices taken seriously. The commission aims to give social housing

tenants a far louder say in the future of the sector and a way of changing attitudes across society. It follows many public expressions of anger and concern over how Grenfell Tower tenants feel their safety worries were ignored before the terrible fire killed 71 residents and destroyed the homes of hundreds more. Work to encase the tower in scaffolding and

wrapping is expected to last until May, but in the meantime the burnt out edifice stands as a reminder of the tragedy and the lack of progress in resolving the many questions raised over how it happened, how we prevent a recurrence and the lessons to be learned. The Government was expected to issue its own

Green Paper on social housing in the Spring and Alok Sharma, the previous housing minister held a series of roadshows with tenants around the country. His move to a new job in the reshuffle and replacement by Dominic Raab has left a big question mark over the Green Paper’s content and launch date. Highlighting the need for the commission,

Shelter and YouGov revealed the results of new research. This showed that many of the challenges described by Grenfell residents in the aftermath of the fire, are also faced by social housing residents and their communities right across England. Namely that: • Almost half (48 per cent) of families in social housing who reported issues around poor or unsafe conditions felt ignored or were refused help. Problems they had reported included fire safety, gas leaks, electrical hazards, mould and pest problems, among others;

• Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of families in social housing said they feel looked down upon because of where they live, compared with only eight per cent of families who are private renters or homeowners.

Chaired by Reverend Mike Long of the Notting

Hill Methodist Church, which is situated close to Grenfell, Shelter has brought together a panel of 17 commissioners to examine the state of social housing in modern Britain and its future role in

ending the housing crisis. They include Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Ed Miliband MP, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Lord Jim O’Neill and Grenfell Tower survivor Edward Daffarn.

ROADSHOWS AND CONSULTATION Between now and October a series of roadshows will be held across the country, a public consultation will take place online, and a major piece of research with social housing tenants will be carried out. An independent report with recommendations will be presented to Prime Minister Theresa May and to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn before the end of the year.

The commission’s chair Reverend Mike Long

said: “I hope this commission will hold a mirror up to society. We need to take a long hard look at why communities such as Grenfell have felt ignored, forgotten, and too often like second-class citizens. The experiences of residents here in Grenfell are sadly common in many other parts of the country, too.” Commissioner Edward Daffarn, from the

survivors and bereaved group Grenfell United, said: “Everyone who lived in Grenfell Tower knows just how devastating the consequences are when the well being of social housing tenants and leaseholders are disregarded – more than 70 members of our community needlessly lost their lives in a wholly avoidable tragedy.” He continued “If we are ever to achieve any kind

of justice and recompense for what happened, it will come through genuine social change and by ensuring that people living in social housing will never again be treated like second-class citizens or experience such neglect and institutional indifference at the hands of housing providers. Grenfell United hopes that this independent commission may act as a catalyst for the social change this is needed for our community and for the whole country.”

To find out more about 'Shelter's Big Conversation' on social housing, people should visit: bigconversation.

Rogue landlords should face minimum £30,000 fines

Rogue landlords who commit housing offences should be fined a minimum of £30,000 as part of common sentencing guidelines to improve standards in the private rental sector, the Local Government Association says. Latest figures from the English Housing

Survey show that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of privately rented homes failed to meet the decent homes standard in 2016. Eight per cent of properties also had some type of damp problem. Under powers recently introduced, councils

can enforce fines of up to £30,000 to private landlords for offences such as failing to license a property, or not complying with an improvement notice. However, there are currently no guidelines

for magistrates when sentencing for housing offences. Magistrates base their decision on how much a landlord says they can afford, rather than the seriousness of the offence or the harm caused to tenants. The LGA, which represents 370 councils in

England and Wales, says that the most serious cases such as for fire safety breaches or providing substandard housing which councils decide to take to a magistrates’ court, should lead to fines that at least match the highest level of a civil penalty. This will raise standards and provide consistency across the courts. Council leaders are also calling for greater

freedoms to introduce private housing licensing schemes to improve rental standards for tenants across entire council areas. Under the current system, councils have to

apply to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for permission to introduce schemes that cover more than 20 per cent of an area or 20 per cent of privately rented homes in the borough. Cllr Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman,

said: “The majority of landlords are decent, responsible law-abiding citizens who do a great job in making sure their tenants are living in safe and quality housing. Unfortunately there is a minority of rogue landlords who give those good landlords a bad name. “Councils want to work with landlords, not

against them. But with more young people and families renting privately than ever before, we need to see reforms that will maintain and improve housing standards. A key deterrent to rogue landlords would be for the Government to set common sentencing guidelines which delivers consistency across the courts.” | HMM March 2018 | 17

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