HQN blog – Shaping consumer regulation after Grenfell

By Janis Bright, HQN

Events in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire are moving quickly. Even since the Network launched its survey on the future of regulation last month there have been a number of developments.

First, the government announced the terms of the public inquiry headed by Sir Martin Moore-Bick. These are fairly narrowly focused on how the fire happened and the actions of Kensington & Chelsea LBC. But many – and to be fair, the government itself – want a debate on wider questions about social housing policy.

To that end, Prime Minister Theresa May said these wider questions should not – and will not – be ‘left unanswered or somehow seen as a lower priority’.

Housing Minister Alok Sharma, who has been visibly affected by the tragedy, will meet and hear from as many social housing tenants as possible, both in the Grenfell Tower area but also across the country. He wants to ‘build up a comprehensive picture of some of the immediate issues facing tenants, as well as to identify any common concerns that must inform any national approach’ and he’s promising a further announcement on this work shortly. Clearly, the government is belatedly realising the hugely valuable role tenants can, and often do, play in the governance and management of their housing.

Meanwhile, the inquiry gets underway with a preliminary hearing on Thursday 14 September 2017, and an initial report into the cause and spread of the fire is expected by next Easter.

Alongside this there are questions on the safety of white goods, the role of the fire brigade, the situation of leaseholders and of course the building regulations system.

Hovering over all of this is the issue of regulation. Downgraded on the consumer side in the most recent incarnation of the HCA, regulation remains of crucial importance in establishing and improving housing standards. In times of the kind of housing shortages seen in recent years, regulation becomes all the more important in underpinning standards and governance for tenants. HQN has called for consumer regulation to take a greater role, returning perhaps to the values of the Cave Review, aptly titled Every Tenant Matters.

What kind of consumer regulation do tenants, professionals and board members want to see from now on? What should the standards look like, and how should landlords’ performance be checked? Have your say via our online survey and help shape HQN’s thinking on this critical issue. Take our survey now.