Kwajo Tweneboa, a young social housing campaigner. Image: Supplied
Campaigners who have worked tirelessly to draw attention to Britain’s neglected social housing have hailed the government’s introduction of a bill to boost standards – but warned of a long road ahead.
The Social Housing Regulation Bill was unveiled in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech as part of the government’s priority to “ensure better quality and safer homes”.
The legislation comes after a year-long ITV News investigation and the work of grassroots activist Kwajo Tweneboa uncovered social housing tenants living in squalid conditions.
Tweneboa said the acknowledgement was a landmark moment for social tenants.
“I’m glad that social housing was mentioned. I was hoping for it to be a bit longer but I’m glad it’s being addressed still,” he told The Big Issue following Prince Charles’ speech in parliament.
“Overall I’m pleased to see that social housing is a topic that is being talked about considering it hasn’t been spoken about for so long. But now we have to see exactly what the legislation is and if it will be effective enough. That’s what needs to be worked on now. I’m looking forward to playing a part in that.”
The bill – which follows the government’s social housing white paper published in November 2020 – aims to boost powers open to regulators the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman to deal with complaints and boost standards across the board.
The legislation sets out measures to ensure social housing is safe, ensure swift and effective complaint resolution as well as strengthening the consumer standards social landlords must meet and creating “a strong, proactive regime” to enforce them.
Tenants will also be able to engage with and hold landlords to account under the plans.
The government’s announcement comes almost five years after the Grenfell Tower disaster. The tragic fire, which killed 72 people, shocked the nation and triggered a debate on the state of social housing that has continued in the years since.
Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved families, said the bill is a “small step forward, but there’s a long road ahead”.
A spokesperson for the group told The Big Issue: “It’s taken the government five years to publish the Social Housing Regulation Bill. Seventy-two people died because of a rogue landlord, hundreds of thousands of people are still forced to suffer in squalor – this news is long overdue.
“We hope this is the first step towards meaningful change the sector so desperately needs. That it paves the way for a more effective complaints system for residents, robust independent inspections and professionalisation of the housing sector.
“This is a small step forward, but there’s a long road ahead. The Social Housing Regulation Bill must be read in parliament and the department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities must commit to the full set of changes promised in the Social Housing White Paper. We cannot allow homes to kill again.”