Housing associations face difficult trade offs

Paul Hackett

Inadequate government funding to improve fire safety means social landlords are having to scale back the number of homes they build and delay energy efficiency measures, says Paul Hackett

In my 30 years working for housing associations, I’ve seen the sector confront many big issues. But the fire safety challenge facing social landlords – and our residents – since the terrible Grenfell fire is without parallel.

First and foremost there can be no issue more important than the safety of our residents. We must get this right. But the scale, cost and complexity of tackling fire remediation is huge. The situation is highly politically charged. And of course we’re grappling with this while responding to covid, Brexit and other major challenges – including achieving government’s net zero carbon commitments – all of which interact with fire safety work. The total cost of fire remediation for social landlords is thought to be £10bn.

As the secretary of state rightly acknowledged at the recent National Housing Federation summit, this means that “a number of hugely challenging things are coming together” which “places a lot of pressure on the sector and forces [landlords] to make hard choices that you wouldn’t ordinarily want to have to make.”

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