The Socialist 31 July 2019 |
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Barking: campaigning over housing safety
London firefighters putting out the fire on Barking Riverside estate, 9.6.19, photo Pete Mason (Click to enlarge)
Socialist Party reporters
Following a shocking, preventable fire on its housing estate a few weeks ago, Barking Reach Residents' Association met to discuss the next steps of its campaign.
The association has already secured important concessions and tenants and leaseholders plan to fight on.
They had been campaigning against poor management and for access to fire safety risk assessments before the recent fire.
A recent lively meeting heard Paul Kershaw from the Unite housing workers' union branch and Shac (Social Housing Action Campaign) describe how residents are facing similar problems around the country and are beginning to organise.
Residents have achieved gains where they have actively campaigned. Paul outlined the need for campaigns to link together to force the hand of a weak government, builders and landlords.
The question of withholding money for rent or service charges until assurances are received - 'no safety, no rent' - was also raised.
Ten years after the Lakanal tower block fire in south London resulted in recommendations that sprinklers should be installed, 95% of tower blocks lack sprinklers.
There is still confusion over what regulations allow, leaving loopholes. And some leaseholders get huge bills to pay to correct unsafe features.
It is so bad that the insurers who cover the private companies who do building control work - signing off buildings as compliant with regulations - are panicking and refusing to back the inspectors, driving at least one, and perhaps many more, to the point of liquidation. This could have serious consequences for housebuilding in the UK.
Boris Johnson has continued to champion deregulation, one of the key factors leading to the fire safety scandal.
The main housing expertise of the new minister, Robert Jenrick, seems to be in owning luxury homes himself - at the last count two London homes worth over £2 million each and a £1 million country pile.