Grenfell and the changing housing landscape

Grenfell Tower was a tragedy with a very human cost. The shocking footage of the burning tower made international headlines, and continues to be a significant part of the public consciousness.  No arrests have been made and the investigation into the fire continues. What is more, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick has said it will be unlikely to be completed until 2019, based upon the amount of evidence.

Campaign group, Justice 4 Grenfell, is still fighting for answers. A recent billboard campaign saw three vans driven around London to mark the eight-month anniversary. Placards with the words “71 dead”, “And still no arrests?“, “How Come?” drove past many landmarks in the city, including the Houses of Parliament. The lives lost in the tragic event should not be forgotten as the whole industry strives to make positive changes. This includes the culture surrounding safety while offering value for money.

It appears supported by the interim report, that the regulatory system for fire safety is unfit for purpose. This is both during construction and occupation stages. Current regulations and guidance can seem complex and sanction processes considered weak. A better way for residents to escalate concerns also needs to be addressed. The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed that, while 299 of the 312 buildings tested in recent months have failed safety assessments, only 26 have had the dangerous cladding fully removed.  Only three have had replacement panels installed. The costs of new safety measures are also likely to be over £1 billion.

A better balance needs to be made between price and quality of housing. Landlords need to remember this when undertaking new builds and refurbishing existing buildings. Alan Heron, director of procurement at Places for People (PfP), is one who believes the landscape has now changed. “It took something as horrible as Grenfell for people to realise there’s a consequence to looking for the lowest price,” he asserts. “It’s refocused everyone away from ticket price and back to value, which is where it should have been all along.”

The UK is in an unprecedented housing crisis. One figure has put the amount of social housing needed as enough to fill the city of Leeds by the end of this parliament. Temporary accommodation should only be a stop gap. New quality homes are needed to create trust and security across the country. There is no price to be put on human lives, which are more than numbers on a spreadsheet.

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