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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Letter to The Guardian: One year on from the Grenfell fire, and yet so little has changed

14th June 2018

On the first anniversary of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, Jean has co-signed a letter in the Guardian calling for greater public investment in safe, decent public housing that is affordable for everyone. The letter calls for a housing system where tenants are listened to, that is driven by public interest, not by the market.

The letter can be read in full below or in the Guardian.

One year on from the Grenfell fire, and yet so little has changed

A year ago today we witnessed Britain’s deadliest fire in living memory. The morning after, we learned that warnings about fire safety from residents had been ignored. Later we heard about the safety failures at national and local level, and companies hawking unsafe building materials unchecked.

After Grenfell many argued that the atrocity should signal a turning point in housing policy. We have yet to see this turning point. We hear that cladding like that used at Grenfell – the equivalent of coating a building in petrol – will not be banned. Indeed, it took 11 months for Theresa May to commit £400m to remove existing cladding from tower blocks. Even this modest and long overdue announcement was revealed as a sham: the £400m was to be pinched from affordable housing budgets.

It is scandalous that a year on from this tragedy, politicians are whittling down public housing budgets and failing to take action to keep residents safe.

This political disregard for social tenants is rooted in state disinvestment from public housing and unaccountable private interests taking over the building and management of social housing. Our estates are being run down and demolished while public assets are sold off. Meanwhile 80% of new homes built in London are affordable only to the richest 8% of the city.

The Mayor of London is to enforce ballots on estates facing ‘regeneration’. This is a start – but we need political will at all levels to ensure that development benefits tenants first, and that what gets built locally meets local needs.

A tragedy like Grenfell must never happen again. We need public investment in safe, decent public housing that is affordable for everyone. We want a housing system where tenants are listened to. And we need housing policy driven by public interest and not by the market.