Prime Minister needs to "strengthen voice of social housing residents"

// HA News

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on the Prime Minister to ensure residents’ voices are at the heart of future decision-making about social housing in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Sadiq has previously expressed his disappointment that the Public Inquiry will focus primarily on the fire and Kensington and Chelsea Council’s role – but will not cover wider policy around social housing, which he sees as vital if the community’s confidence is to be restored.

To ensure the voices of social housing residents are heard at national level when policy is being developed, Sadiq has proposed that the Prime Minister appoint a Commissioner for Social Housing Residents, which he believes should be independent of Government with a remit to act as a watchdog.

The proposal for a new Commissioner is one of a package of measures for social housing residents – alongside opening up access for residents to the housing ombudsman and social housing regulator – that Sadiq will begin consultation on when he publishes his draft London Housing Strategy later this month. As a minimum, the Mayor believes the system for regulating social housing must be genuinely responsive to the concerns of tenants and leaseholders on social housing estates.

Sadiq is concerned the regulator – a statutory body with oversight of standards in social housing – fails to give sufficient attention to issues such as tenant involvement. Of more than a thousand complaints from residents to the regulator in the last two years, just 10 triggered regulatory action. He is keen that City Hall and Government consult residents and work together to develop key reforms to ensure the voices of social housing residents are heard.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said “I welcomed the Government’s decision to establish the Grenfell Public Inquiry, but I have been clear that the terms of reference are not as broad as I and many residents would have liked. It is crucial that social housing residents are able to have confidence that all the factors which led to the fire and the lacklustre response will be identified and addressed quickly and independently.

“I firmly believe residents must be at the heart of decision-making about the future of social housing. That’s why I am calling on the Prime Minister to work with me and residents to develop a package of measures that guarantee they have a much stronger voice.”

John Giesen, Chair of tenant engagement experts Tpas, said “Tpas welcome the call from the Mayor of London that social housing residents’ voices are heard far more in the future. Social housing is a vital, much-needed housing tenure and more must be done to ensure it is safely managed and resourced. The residents’ voice is a critical part of that.”

Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, London Councils’ Executive member for housing, said “In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, the safety of London’s tenants in private, local authority and housing association homes must be the paramount concern for central and local government. A new regulatory regime must ensure that the voices of London’s tenants and leaseholders is built in to its structure and reflected in its culture.”

Paul Hackett, Chief Executive of a Optivo, said "As Chief Executive of a large housing association, I've personally seen the enormous benefits of engaging with residents. Involving residents in service design and the governance of the organisation has not only helped improve customer satisfaction, it's also helped reduce costs. Residents are experts at identifying areas where landlords are over or under serving. Residents have worked with us to process-map and streamline services. This includes helping us on our journey to customer self-service. I'm a passionate advocate of unlocking people power to deliver great housing services."

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