Report says London should have its own social housing commissioner

“It’s imperative we avoid a breakdown between social housing landlords and their tenants.”

Sian Berry

Post-Grenfell London needs a social housing commissioner of its own to avoid breakdown between providers and tenants across the capital, a new report says.

Today (Oct 6), the London Assembly Housing Committee releases an intended response to the consultation on government’s Social Housing Green Paper.

The resulting report sets out a series of recommendations that encourage the Mayor to use his power to ensure good relationships between providers and tenants can thrive.

Examining how residents engage with their social housing in the capital, recommendations in the report include:

  • Appointing a social housing commissioner who sits on the Homes for Londoners board
  • Support for the government’s call to assess performance of social landlords
  • Basing future GLA funding to social landlords for new affordable homes on improvements in transparency and management in their organisations

Author of the report, Chair of the GLA Housing Committee, Sian Berry AM said: “The Grenfell disaster is a tragic reminder that residents in social housing have a right to have their voices heard, especially when it comes to concerns they have about where they live.

“This can only begin if social housing landlords and residents have mutual respect.

“It’s imperative we avoid a breakdown between social housing landlords and their tenants.”

In the wake of Grenfell disaster, many residents of the tower block and surrounding estate spoke out to say they had tried to raise concerns about safety issues but that their voices had not been listened to or concerns adequately addressed.

As part of the Assembly’s work on issues coming out of the disaster, an inquiry was launched into how social housing residents are engaged in the management of their homes and estates.

The inquiry surveyed London’s boroughs and the G15 on the different ways they get residents involved in decision making.

A public meeting was held in July with representatives from three London boroughs, two G15 housing associations and the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development.

An ‘open mic’ session was facilitated by London Tenants Federation groups, where social housing residents were able to voice their opinions and concerns.

The committee also took written submissions from London-based individuals and tenants’ and residents’ groups.

“This report summarises the findings from this research. It makes recommendations to the Mayor on how he can contribute to a more open and responsive culture of engagement between social housing landlords and their residents,” said Berry.

“The report recognises that social housing landlords bring management expertise and financial resources. However, it also highlights that residents bring resources of a different kind – reflections of a lived experience, energy and collective spirit.

“Together, both share the ambition of creating safe, comfortable homes where people and communities will thrive. I hope that this report will contribute to that goal,” she said.

Nearly one in four homes in London is now provided as social housing and, for the past two decades, housing associations have provided most of London’s new affordable and social homes.

In 2017, London’s social housing stock was 801,190 homes, almost 23% of the capital’s total housing.

London’s social housing is equally distributed between housing associations (407,230 homes) and London councils (393,960 homes).

In the five years to 2017, the amount of social housing in London remained fairly constant, with around 3,000 additional units built.

In comparison, over the same period, London’s private housing stock increased by 5% overall, with 140,000 additional units built.

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