Housing

Sadiq Khan demands improvements to London's social homes with 1 in 7 not meeting basic standards

The mayor of London has told providers of social housing in the capital to make sure their homes meet the government's Decent Homes Standard.

Sadiq Khan inspects a social home in Walthamstow. Image: City Hall

Sadiq Khan has demanded improvements are made to London’s social housing stock after a new study revealed one in seven properties fail to meet basic living standards.

The mayor of London is calling for a “step-change” and has vowed to work with landlords to make sure complaints are listened to and acted on.

City Hall analysis found 115,000 – 15 per cent – of social homes in the capital do not meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard, which states properties must be in good repair, warm and have reasonably modern facilities.

Three in 10 social tenants said they have considered making a complaint in the last year but of those who did, more than half – 59 per cent – were unhappy with the response from their landlord or management organisation.

Footage of horrifying social housing conditions in the capital have shocked social media users in recent months. Campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa has made it his mission to document the conditions faced by some of the most vulnerable communities in London, including homes with human faeces running down the wall and infestations of cockroaches.

Khan said: “London’s housing crisis remains one of the greatest barriers to addressing the inequality we face in our city and I’m proud to have overseen record numbers of social and other genuinely affordable [living rent and shared ownership] homes being started in London.

“However, while brand new high quality social rent homes are desperately needed, I’m determined we don’t forget those who are struggling in homes that do not meet basic standards. We need a step-change in approach as too many homes are still not in a decent condition.

“It is vital that providers of social housing assure tenants that their complaints are being listened to and acted on in a swift and timely manner to provide the comfort and security in their homes that all Londoners deserve.”

Deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley will on Thursday meet social housing providers from across London to share best practice and discuss how they can improve conditions for social tenants.

He and Khan will also tell providers to be proactive and do everything possible to ensure no social tenant lives in substandard housing.

That includes improving the complaints system. The second most common complaint the housing ombudsman rules on is how providers have handled complaints from tenants and the regulator is currently consulting on a new set of ‘tenant satisfaction measures’ landlords will need to meet.

Khan’s clampdown in the social housing sector comes hot on the heels of his calls for the government to get tough with private sector landlords. On Wednesday he called on ministers to double the compensation landlords must pay tenants for inadequate or dangerous housing and repeated his call for rent controls to combat spiralling housing costs as the cost of living crisis bites.

Pat Turnbull, a regional representative for the London Tenants’ Federation, welcomed the mayor’s intervention. She said: “We agree that lengthy and frequently ineffective complaints systems are indeed a key element to address.

“Individual complaints are often symptoms of wider poor-quality management and maintenance practices. This includes failures to engage tenants collectively in the development of social landlord policy and practice.”

The Decent Homes Standard was introduced in 2000, with the intention of all social housing hitting targets by 2010.

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Originally progress was swift in London, with the number of non-decent social homes falling from 280,000 in 2006 to 120,000 in 2014. But progress has stalled since then and government funding came to an end in 2016. A review is currently taking place that could see the criteria changed.

Earlier this month Michael Gove announced plans to enforce the standard on all rented homes, not just social housing, as part of his ‘levelling up’ white paper.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck has long campaigned for better standards in London’s social housing. She said: “MPs, along with councillors and advice agencies, find themselves dealing with far too many cases of people in horrifying housing conditions.

“Whilst the private rented sector has a higher proportion of substandard housing, it is obvious that a serious problem exists in social housing too. I welcome the mayor’s focus on this issue. All tenants, regardless of who their landlord is, deserve a safe, decent home.”

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