Westminster Diary

The Grenfell fire tragedy has raised many questions and a number of inquiries are currently underway. A police investigation, an independent public inquiry into the causes of fire and an independent review of building regulations.

However, the tragedy has also raised wider questions about social housing. The Government has committed to publish a Social Housing Green Paper, which is a consultation document setting out proposals for change. In order to inform our national approach the Prime Minister asked me recently to meet with social housing tenants across the country.

In my capacity as Minister for Housing, I have been holding workshop events to hear the views of tenants. Discussion has focused on how social landlords engage with tenants, how effectively complaints are dealt with, concerns about safety and wider matters relating to community and welfare.

So far there have been a total of five events in Newmarket, York, Birmingham, Oxford, and Preston, with further events scheduled to take place between now and January.

By the end of this process, I want to have built up a comprehensive picture of the issues tenants living in social housing face, to identify any common concerns that can inform our approach going forward, and to use this information as we prepare our Green Paper.

Over the past month, the Government has demonstrated its continuing commitment to the social housing sector by announcing an additional £2bn investment in the affordable homes programme. This brings total investment in the affordable homes programme up to £9bn for the period 2016-2021.

The Government has also provided certainty on the rent settlement to social landlords, as well as announcing that we will not be applying the local housing allowance cap to the social rented sector. Social housing landlords I have spoken with have really welcomed these announcements as it will mean more investment into the sector.

Recently residents of a block in my constituency run by Southern Housing, a housing association, have raised concerns about an ant infestation and issues around service charges. I have organised a meeting with Southern Housing so residents can raise their concerns face-to-face and resolve them. Whatever I may do in government, for me it is always important to remember the old saying, all politics is local!  

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