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Housing charity to ‘hold a mirror up to society’ with social housing commission

A British housing charity is hoping to address community issues brought up after the Grenfell Tower tragedy by developing a new commission.

Shelter launched the social housing commission today, with ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Conservative cabinet minister Baroness Warsi both serving as commissioners.

It comes as research by the charity, in cooperation with YouGov, revealed that almost half of families in social housing who reported problems with poor or unsafe conditions said they were refused help or felt ignored.

Local authorities have welcomed the move but warned that social housing cannot keep up to standards without additional funding from central government.

“Councils are supportive of any initiative that seeks to genuinely improve social housing for families and would be keen to see a greater local government representation play a part in the commission,” said Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman.

“But councils need to have the financial tools to invest in the quality of their housing stock. The government needs to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to accept the calls of both the LGA and the cross-party Treasury Select Committee, and completely scrap the cap on the amount councils can borrow to invest in new and existing homes.”

The commission is going to hold a series of roadshows around the country, as well as producing a major piece of researching taking in the views of social housing tenants.

Shelter says an independent report carrying recommendations will be presented to the prime minister and to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn before the end of the year.

Reverend Mike Long of the Notting Hill Methodist Church near Grenfell Shelter is to be chair of the commission.

“I hope this commission will hold a mirror up to society,” he said. “We need to take a long hard look at why communities such as Grenfell have felt ignored, forgotten, and too often like second-class citizens. The experiences of residents here in Grenfell are sadly common in many other parts of the country, too.”

Miliband added: “Social housing is a key part of how we build strong, cohesive communities and give the most vulnerable a chance for a home.

“Getting our communities to work means getting social housing right, and we need to start this by making sure the voice of those who need social housing is properly heard in our national life. That’s what this commission will try to do.”

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