Phelim Mac Cafferty: Why housing regulation is still needed

Councillor MacCafferty
Councillor MacCafferty

One year on from the horrors of the Grenfell Tower Fire and the public inquiry has shown us the grief faced by those who have been left behind.

Relatives and friends of the 72 people lost to the fire have paid moving tributes – a harrowing reminder of the unacceptable loss of life on that day. The inquiry has also laid bare the deepest injustice; that the housing ‘market’ continues to fail communities, especially the most vulnerable. One report to the inquiry revealed shocking details of neglect, such as non-compliant fire doors and malfunctioning fire lifts. Worst of all, repeat complaints from residents about safety went unheeded.

Last week Theresa May stated that her response to Grenfell was ‘not good enough.’ Yet she failed to come clean about how her own Government’s mantra of ‘cutting red tape’ has left tenants of both social and private rented housing with fewer regulations to cover the safety and security of their homes. Years of failed housing policy – from the ‘Right to Buy’ to starving councils of funds to build more social housing, has left too many without access to decent, affordable homes. According to the English Housing Survey, a third of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet national decent homes standards, with safety hazards such as exposed wiring and dangerous boilers. Government funding for housing improvements has barely changed in the last five years and the Housing White Paper published last February has yet to show progress.

Last year Greens raised questions about inspections of our own housing to ensure such a horror never occurs here. We wrote to Government minsters to lobby for tougher regulations on fire safety and I set up meetings between the fire service and residents to brief them on fire safety. We have pressured the council to do more to provide social housing and for an effective ‘good landlord’ scheme. One report at the Grenfell Inquiry damned the Government for ‘irresponsible deregulation by incompetency’. Until the housing market works for residents, Greens will keep campaigning for housing for people, not profit, and safe and secure housing for all.

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.