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Busy agenda for the new Housing Secretary

Patrick Mooney, News Editor

So the cabinet minister merry go round has been hard at work (again) and we find ourselves with a new Housing Secretary in the shape of James Brokenshire, after his predecessor was moved to the Home Office. The new minister has inherited a very busy agenda, with little time to make his mark. Top of the list must surely be dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, ensuring the survivors are

properly looked after and sympathetically rehoused, while at the same time helping residents of similarly clad high rise blocks to get on with their lives safe in the knowledge that their homes are neither a fire risk, or the source of an impending financial disaster. The leaked report by the Building Research Establishment laid bare the awful facts behind the fire, where it seems corners

were cut and 72 lives were needlessly lost. Over the coming weeks and months, the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire will hear harrowing accounts of what happened on the night of June 14 last year. It’s been more than 11 months since the tragedy but there is little in the way of solid evidence to show we are any closer to preventing a similar catastrophe. The fact there was a similar fire at Lakanal House in Southwark eight years earlier which killed six people is a reminder

that strong, direct action is required. The coroner who ran inquests into the six deaths made a set of clear recommendations – many of them on fire safety and building regulations – but these were never properly implemented. James Brokenshire needs to show his mettle by driving through a safety first agenda and scrapping the ‘penny pinching and cutting corners culture’ that has built up in so many parts of the construction and maintenance sectors.

AFFORDABILITY, QUALITY AND SECURITY It is clear from the tone and content of the Labour Party’s green paper on social housing that they spent a lot of time talking to survivors of the Grenfell fire and to many tenants of councils and housing association, as well as workers from across the sector. The new Housing Secretary would do well to borrow ideas from the opposition or to replicate their approach. His predecessor did a reasonable job at listening to people who live and work in the sector. He certainly appeared to get

the message about the importance of providing housing for all and not just those fortunate enough to be able to buy their home. But Sajid Javid was not always successful in winning arguments with the Treasury or Number 10 and this limited his impact. Rented housing is a hugely important asset to this country, but we need much more of it at an affordable price and of a

quality which makes people happy to live in it. The private rented sector continues to grow and in recent years it has been the subject of lots of new regulations designed to improve the quality of properties and landlords. There is still a need to introduce longer, more secure tenancies and possibly rent controls to protect tenants and encourage them to put down deeper roots. But good landlords also need safeguards and reassurances. If Mr Brokenshire can succeed in delivering all of this then he will get a very loud three cheers from me.

RESOURCES AND FOCUS His in-tray probably contains reports from the Resolution Foundation and the Trussell Trust, which focus on the plight of young adults struggling in the housing market and of the growing numbers of low-income families who are reliant on food banks for everyday essentials. Meanwhile the BBC and NHF have produced reports on the growing unaffordability of rents, with growing numbers of Baby Boomers facing difficulties in paying their rent. Homelessness is continuing to rise and it was horrific to read reports that over the course of the last winter more people

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Nottingham City Homes Patrick Mooney 4 | HMM May 2018 |

bags Innovation Award Ultra-low energy refurbishment project in Sneinton

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died on the streets than in the Grenfell fire. Councils have been given new powers and responsibilities to tackle homelessness, but they also need the financial resources and access to new homes so they can support and rehouse families. Cases like the Bristol family of five who spent over three years in a single hotel room with no cooking facilities after they

lost their private tenancy and were unable to make a housing application, are rare but by no means unknown. Legally families should not have to stay longer than six weeks in Bed & Breakfast hotels while they are found housing, but thousands are having to endure much longer waits, often in unsuitable conditions. Solving these issues does not come cheap. After a disastrous start to the year for the construction sector, it is unlikely the

Government will get close to its target of building 300,000 new homes a year. Mr Brokenshire deserves some time and space to show his intent, but for the sake of the Grenfell survivors, the residents of other high-rise blocks and the many thousands of homeless people waiting for a decent home, I hope he turns out to be a lucky minister with a great track record of successfully ticking items off his ‘To Do’ list as jobs well done.



Shocking Grenfell report leaked

Crackdown on rogue landlords


struggling with homelessness

New Housing Secretary appointed

The May issue of Housing Management & Maintenance features a follow-up of the now award-winning refurbishment by Nottingham City Homes in Sneinton.

On the cover...

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