Great Britain

Opinion: My fight for safe, secure and affordable homes continues

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner has been campaigning for affordable homes for more than two decades.

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner has been campaigning for affordable homes for more than two decades.

Archant

As parliament returned after a long break for both Christmas and the December election, my first advice surgery was deluged!

It was an explosion of despair, frustration and anger about one issue: housing. Overcrowding, mismanagement, excessive service charges, repairs, fire safety issues - many lives blighted by the lack of a safe, secure, affordable home.

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There are many decent private sector landlords who provide reasonable accommodation. But there are others who prey on vulnerable tenants. And there are many developers who have cut corners on building regulations leaving leaseholders trapped in unsafe homes.

For more than two years - ever since the tragedy of Grenfell — my office has been like an incident room for housing cases. Failed housing policy has meant that out of the 200,000 planned starter homes which the government promised six years ago, the number built is: zero. One woman contacted me to say that after the stress of two years fighting the developer of her unsafe building, her doctor told her she had to move to stop her illness recurring. She lost £100,000 in the process.

One of the first Acts of Parliament in which I played a significant role was the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act. I began the campaign in parliament in 1998 and we passed the Bill into law four years later. In my speech back in 2002, I warned that the Bill did not go far enough. I predicted that my constituents would continue to be afflicted by unreasonable service charges, the iniquities of lease extension and the failure of management companies. I predicted we would need to pass further legislation. I am saddened to have been proved right.