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Do more to help social-housing tenants, Bishop urges landowners

08 July 2022

iStock

A tower block and low-rise apartments in Harlow, Essex

A tower block and low-rise apartments in Harlow, Essex

RELIGIOUS groups, landlords, developers, landowners, homeowners, and government all need to do more to help the poorest of society caught up in the housing crisis, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, has told the House of Lords.

“At present, the cost of the housing crisis falls largely on those who are financially poorest and resident in unaffordable or substandard housing,” Dr Francis-Dehqani said during a debate for the Second Reading of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill last month.

“This is starkly evident at the moment as the cost-of-living crisis bites. The housing crisis will not be solved unless there is a willingness among others in the housing market to share this burden. These sacrifices will help ensure a lasting housing legacy that works for us all.

“A long-term, cross-party housing strategy that brings those at every level of government, together with landowners, developers, landlords, homeowners, and faith organisations, is the only way that sustainable and meaningful transformation will happen.”

Dr Francis-Dehqani, who is the Church’s lead bishop for housing, welcomed the Bill, in which landlords will have to register with a new regulator and establish an advisory panel to amplify tenants’ voices. “Too often, the concerns of social-housing tenants have been ignored or silenced,” she said.

It was also “only right and appropriate” that, in view of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government was making safety one of the regulator’s fundamental objectives. The Grenfell Tower fire was not an unfortunate accident, she said. “It was the result of careless decisions taken, regulations ignored, an industry that seemed at times more interested in making profits and selling products than in the precious value of human life and keeping people safe in their own homes.”

The Housing Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, said that reform and lasting change were vital to ensure that a such a tragedy never happened again. “Social-housing tenants have not been treated with the respect that they deserve,” he said. “Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home. In 2022, it is a disgrace that there are social-housing tenants who are forced to live in damp, cold, unsafe homes. Some tenants wait months for repairs, and are ignored by their landlords. The Bill will change this.”

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