Socialist Party member Paul Kershaw, chair of the Unite housing workers’ branch, spoke to Ed Spencer. Ed has been campaigning to get his housing association, One Housing, to provide decent services since before the cladding scandal emerged.
MPs have now rejected attempts to protect leaseholders from post-Grenfell fire safety bills on five occasions. Thousands of leaseholders face crippling bills of up to £100,000 to make their properties safe, and many are paying weekly bills for fire watches.
Boris Johnson had pledged that leaseholders would not pay for safety issues that were no fault of their own but, as expected, this pledge has proved worthless.
Ed is concerned that there is a real risk that residents will be driven to suicide.
He believes government proposals will be simply unaffordable, particularly after residents have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Some may be able to borrow from family or friends, but not all.
Many have suffered bereavement and distress during the pandemic, and others cannot sleep because they are aware of the fire risk to their property. Ed believes the real solution would be to buy back the shared ownership properties, releasing residents from mortgage prison.
Flats should be made safe and used for genuine social-rent housing. Ed points out that the big building companies responsible are big donors to the Tory party.
The Tories have received more than £11 million from property developers since Boris Johnson became prime minister. But Ed also says that the process of dodgy deals and deregulation carried on when Labour was in office.
In the same week that MPs rejected help for leaseholders, around 40 firefighters and six engines were called to a blaze at Crystal Court in Croydon, south London. Residents and neighbours were evacuated as fire tore through the cladding on the block.
The housing association that owns the block, Orbit Group, reportedly refused to reveal what cladding system was used. This is a reminder that lives continue to be at risk, and lessons of Grenfell and previous fires have not been acted on.