More than half of social renters in England have had a problem with their home in the last three years, says housing charity Shelter, which called for urgent government action to “prevent further tragedies”.
Five million people said they had dealt with electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts – with one in ten forced to report an issue more than ten times for it to be resolved.
Experts at Shelter are worried the new building safety regulator proposed by the government won’t go far enough to protect the health and wellbeing of social renters.
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “Tinkering with the current system just isn’t good enough when people have lost trust in it to keep them safe. That’s why we are calling on the government to establish a new consumer regulator, which inspects social landlords and listens to groups of tenants when they say something isn’t right.”
Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, the housing charity is standing with bereaved families and survivors’ group Grenfell United to demand a tough new regulator that ensures the safety of tenants and proactively inspects social landlords.
Twenty flats were destroyed and ten were damaged in a six-storey block of flats in East London last week. Residents said their concerns about fire safety in the building were dismissed by the housing association just a month before.
Karen Connelly, 54, and her neighbours in a block of council flats in South London have been living with damp, faulty electrics and exposure to asbestos for over a decade.
“My flat flooded three weeks after I moved in, and there have been problems ever since,” Connelly said.
“I’ve had to fight the council to remove asbestos, but it doesn’t end there. Everyone in this block has problems – whatever’s happened to me has happened to my neighbours too. I’ve worked non-stop to get redress, and I’ve become a spokesperson for others too.
“In 2011, I took legal action over the state of my flat and faulty electrics. Shortly after that, I met a mother with a new born baby living in a room covered with damp and mould, which motivated me to keep going.
Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard. https://t.co/9rFk93uutb
— Shelter (@Shelter) June 10, 2019
“The injustice of it gets me. We’re let down by the system. That was how the residents of Grenfell were failed – no-one was listening to the them.”
Shelter research showed that the current social housing regulator – which 72 per cent of social tenants said they had never heard of – exists to oversee finances rather than to protect residents.
Natasha Elcock, chair of Grenfell United, said: “People were raising the alarm about fire safety in Grenfell before the fire, but they were ignored and belittled. The current housing regulator did nothing for us, it was entirely invisible. And two years later, despite all the promises, we still hear from people across the country who are not being listened to about their homes.
“If we want to stop another Grenfell fire, we need serious change – change that will genuinely make a difference to people living in social housing. We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one.
The government introduced a new regime for the banking industry after the financial crash, it should be doing the same for the housing sector. After all, what could be more important than people’s homes?”
We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one,
The charity’s research also revealed a deep mistrust in the government since the Grenfell tower fire, with half of respondents saying they have lost trust in authorities to keep them safe in their homes.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “No one should be forced to live in unsafe housing and we are working closely with Grenfell United and others to ensure social homes are safe and issues are resolved quickly.
“In our recent Social Housing Green Paper consultation we set out proposals to re-balance the relationship between residents and landlords, to tackle stigma and ensure residents’ voices are heard – and we will publish our response before the summer recess.”