Calls for social housing champion rebuffed by London Mayor

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Calls for social housing champion rebuffed by City Hall
Credit London Assembly

Renewed calls for the creation of a ‘social housing champion’ for London have been knocked back by Sadiq Khan.

The city’s mayor said he instead wanted to see a similar role created, but covering the whole country, not just London.

The London Assembly’s housing committee have long called for the capital to have its own social housing commissioner, saying that such a figure would give tenants a louder voice on issues affecting the quality and safety of their homes.

But Khan has argued that such a role would only be effective at a national level, and has refused to approve the creation of a London-wide version of the post.

The Housing Committee – a cross-party body of City Hall politicians, first called for the role’s creation in 2018.

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In a new letter to the Mayor, the committee’s Labour Chair Sem Moema has made the request again.

She wrote: “As you know, the Grenfell disaster highlighted the importance of the quality and safety of social housing.

“It also served as a powerful reminder of why it is vital that social housing residents are listened to, that they have avenues for raising complaints, and that their landlords are adequately and swiftly responding to their concerns…

“A London Commissioner would have experience of living in social rented housing in London, and would use this experience to champion the interests of London’s social tenants… Given the changing nature of London’s housing market, we believe this is still required.”

Responding to the committee’s letter, a spokeswoman for Khan said: “There are no current plans to appoint a London Social Housing Commissioner. Responsibility to improve the standard of existing social housing in London rests with the Government, not the Mayor.

“This is why he has repeatedly called on the Government to find real solutions and push for higher standards in social housing, including appointing an independent national Commissioner, who would sit on the board of the regulator, to ensure the voice of those living in social housing are heard by national policymakers.”

The letter also called for City Hall to encourage social housing providers in London to conduct reviews of their complaints systems, to identify and address any shortcomings.

At a February meeting of the committee, members heard from a panel of speakers – including campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa – about the problems that can affect people in social housing.

The Government has committed to “a programme of reform to improve the quality of social housing”.

This includes providing social housing tenants with access to free training and webinars offering advice on their rights and how to hold their landlord to account. The Government is also consulting on whether it could set updated standards, to establish new minimum quality requirements for homes.

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