Why has our national housing regulator been silent on Grenfell?
Kevin Long, one of HCLC's housing solicitors, has written a piece for The Guardian on the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the role of Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). In the article, Kevin argues that despite its official role as the UK's national housing regulator, the HCA has been all but silent on the Grenfell tragedy. You can read Kevin's powerful piece HERE.
*And in response to Kevin's article, please find below a letter that HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone has sent to the press*
HCLC CHAIR IAN RATHBONE LETTER ON GRENFELL TOWER HOUSING REGULATOR ARTICLE
Kevin Long, a housing solicitor at Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC), has raised a really important point about the toothlessness and inaction of the so-called housing regulator Homes and Community Agency (HCA) in regard to tackling who is responsible for the Grenfell Tower deaths.
As chair of HCLC I fully endorse Kevin’s comments, published on our website. The HCA is a national body set up in 2008 with a statutory duty to regulate social housing providers and uphold standards in the sector.
As such it is supposed to regulate Registered Social Landlords or housing associations as we used to call some of them.
Kevin accurately pinpoints its failings and conflicts of interest.
So there is no real regulation of these RSLs, little monitoring of them or their performance, and poor accountability.
And this is reflected through my many casework problems as a ward councillor involving the tenants of RSL landlords in Hackney.
Some of it has been quite shocking with long delays to repairs, slow to tackle the anti-social behaviour of their tenants, disinterest with the problems of elderly and disabled people, and so on. Some are better than others, but in Hackney I could name several who are definitely not up to standard.
With council tenants, as councillors we have some accountability with Hackney Housing - they are answerable and monitored. It could work better, but it works.
Kevin says: “There are powers to compensate a tenant or groups of tenants where a provider has failed to meet the standards. It can replace councils, ALMOs (arm’s length management organisations), TMOs (tenant management organisations) and housing associations as property managers where there is social housing mismanagement. And yet, the regulator has a record of non-intervention.”
This is a disgrace in 2017.
Social landlords need to be more accountable, particularly to their own tenants as well as the wider public, they need regular monitoring by a body which can come down heavily on them if they are not doing their job of serving their tenants, many of whom come from the Council’s homeless waiting list.
In my view, in growing bigger, some RSL’s staff structure do not match this new size with sparse local management and too much reliance on contractors for repairs.
As for the current HCA, I agree with Kevin’s concluding remark:
“The regulator, amid its sector’s greatest catastrophe, appears to be airbrushing itself from existence. As part of the ongoing search for justice, this must be brought to light.”
Justice for the Grenfell Tower residents and families, and justice, too, for all the other tenants of RSLs who have had to suffer rejection and be overlooked.
Cllr Ian Rathbone
Chair, Hackney Community Law centre