In our latest blog, following on from Sir Steve Bullock’s insight into the first days for a council leader, Lord Kerslake looks at the issues surrounding housing, and what local authorities will be mindful of….
Whether your Council directly manages its stock or has transferred it out to another provider, housing remains a major issue for every London Borough. In my role as the Chair of Peabody I think about the four S’s – Safety, Supply, Service and sustainability. The need to ensure that existing is safe following the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower is an overriding priority. As I write this blog the Fire Safety Bill is completing its passage through Parliament. The Government have rightly determined that the first destination to meet the costs of remediation should be the developers and construction companies. There is still likely to be a significant cost to housing providers which cannot be recovered through this route.
The need to build more homes and in particular more affordable homes remains a vital need. Many Boroughs have committed to directly build new homes themselves using their borrowing powers. This is a key goal of Be First, the regeneration agency for Barking and Dagenham that I chair. We are making good progress. The challenge of delivery here is a big one though and Leaders will want to be sure that their Council is on track to meet its targets.
There is no doubt that housing services were significantly affected by the pandemic as housing providers shifted their focus from repairs to supporting vulnerable residents. As a consequence there is some catching up to do. This is not just about repairs but the overall quality of estate maintenance and tackling anti social behaviour. Key to this is having an effective resident voice and staying close their concerns. The rapidly rising cost of construction and maintenance work presents a real challenge, particularly given the competing demand of building safety work.
Finally, there is sustainability. Many Boroughs have signed up to the Climate Emergency motion. The challenge now is to deliver it. It is not possible to get to zero carbon without addressing the energy efficiency of existing stock. A large scale retrofitting programme is going to be need but funding this and ensuring that residents are on board is going to be essential. Whilst there are some excellent projects underway we are some distance from having the complete answer to this.
So, some big challenges ahead. But I have great faith in the quality of the political leadership in London to move this forward.