Sadiq Khan rejects social housing commissioner calls following Grenfell and Awaab Ishak tragedies

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The London Assembly Housing Committee included seven recommendations in its letter to Sadiq Khan, including appointing a Social Housing Commissioner.

Sadiq Khan has confirmed there are “no plans” to appoint a social housing commissioner for London, despite repeated calls following Grenfell Tower and the death of Awaab Ishak.

The role was first proposed following a 2018 investigation by the London Assembly Housing Committee into the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people tragically died in the blaze spread via the building’s flammable cladding.

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The commissioner would be tasked with representing the interests of social renters, fighting for protection against poor housing conditions and for the availability of good-quality homes, amongst other concerns.

A decision was made against appointing a commissioner at the time, as it was deemed a London-specific position would have less impact on social housing than a national role. However, the committee carried out a further investigation in February this year, after further concerns were raised following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from black mould in December 2020.

Housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa was among those consulted, with the committee writing to the mayor on April 27 with seven recommendations to address some of the social housing issues in the capital.

Awaab Ishak died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his home. Credit: PAAwaab Ishak died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his home. Credit: PA
Awaab Ishak died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his home. Credit: PA | PA

As well as appointing a London commissioner, the recommendations include reviewing the extent of the social housing need in the city, looking at the potential impact of the 7% cap on social rent rises, and for the GLA to publish a list of all social housing providers stripped of their investment partner status or funding under the body’s Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26.

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Ms Moema said: “Ensuring Londoners have access to safe, well-maintained housing must continue to be a priority for the mayor and the GLA.

“Throughout our investigation, we heard stories from tenants’ associations and activists about housing issues in London, and a regular theme was a lack of a voice for tenants across the city.

“This investigation is the second of its kind since 2018, and the same issues continue to cause significant stress on London’s social housing tenants. Guests spoke openly about the challenges they regularly face, and we firmly believe that a Social Housing Commissioner for London would make a significant difference.

“We encourage the mayor and the GLA to consider the recommendations within our letter, and I look forward to receiving a response on this so that we can help our constituents with their housing needs.”

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The London Assembly Housing Committee has sent seven recommendations to the mayor to try and improve social housing conditions in the capital, including appointing a Social Housing Commissioner. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.The London Assembly Housing Committee has sent seven recommendations to the mayor to try and improve social housing conditions in the capital, including appointing a Social Housing Commissioner. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.
The London Assembly Housing Committee has sent seven recommendations to the mayor to try and improve social housing conditions in the capital, including appointing a Social Housing Commissioner. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images. | AFP via Getty Images

‘No current plans’

A spokesperson for the mayor of London however told LondonWorld that Mr Khan is not considering creating the role of social housing commissioner, and that a national position remains the best option.

The spokesperson 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.”

Mr Khan described the expenditure as a “scandal”, and called on further support from national government to support renters.

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