Pressure building on the government to fix social renting

Published: by Tarun Bhakta

Mum and two daughters sitting in their house

On 22 July 2021, Robert Jenrick, the Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) minister, said he was ‘disgusted by the ‘shameful’ social housing conditions presented to him in an interview with ITV’s Daniel Hewitt.  

The Secretary of State’s White Paper shows he’s committed to changing the law on regulation. So now it’s time for him to act.  

We posted a fact check on 23 July after Mr Jenrick, appearing on ITV’s ‘News at Ten’, bigged up the government’s record on social house building. But the ITV report focused on another issue. During the interview, he was shown videos of social housing residents who spoke powerfully about the appalling conditions they’re trapped in. Damp wallpaper peeling from the walls, with ceilings falling through. Their social landlords are failing them.  

The government can change things for social renters 

ITV is doing crucial work in giving residents a voice and uncovering the injustices many social tenants face. Mr Jenrick responded that such conditions can only be found in ‘a minority of homes’, but our research shows that nearly 1.2 million households living in social housing agree that their home has significant mould, condensation or damp problems.1 Over four years after the fire in Grenfell Tower, social tenants need the tougher regulation of standards the prime minister promised as part of his ‘levelling up’ agenda.  

MHCLG proposed a wholesale reform to the way social housing is regulated in last autumn’s Social Housing White Paper – a welcome first step. Now we need some simple, uncontroversial changes in the law to get these reforms on the Statute Book. Once the government changes the law, the Regulator of Social Housing can get on with designing a new system of regulation – one that puts the safety and wellbeing of social housing residents front and centre.  It’s in the government’s hands to kickstart this process.  So why the delay? 

In this year’s Queen’s Speech, there was no commitment to changing the law this year – only ‘as soon as practicable. We will not accept further delays. The government is leaving families self-isolating in appalling conditions. 

‘I assume it’s somewhere sitting in this office, on a shelf

Last week’s interview piled the pressure on the government to make the parliamentary time to bring these crucial reforms forward. Mr Jenrick said: ‘We need change’. But when quizzed on the whereabouts of the legislation, he gave a familiar line: ‘It will be brought to Parliament as soon as possible.’ Interviewer Dan Hewitt was quick to respond: ‘OK, so we haven’t got a date for it then.’

He’s right. After four long years, we’re still waiting for a date in Parliament – and waiting for meaningful change. With the legislation ready to go, there’s really no excuse for keeping social tenants waiting any longer. Lives remain at risk. Children are growing up in shocking conditions. 

It’s no wonder social tenants feel stigmatised and overlooked. 

The government must find the time to pass the law this year. Only then will we start to see the change we need for social tenants to feel safe in their homes, and be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.