The death-toll on London's Grenfell Tower fire continues to mount, it's worth remembering that there are no "natural disasters," only human disasters, created by people who weigh different interests in the balance and create policies based on the way the scales come up.
So it was that a year ago, a group of Tory MPs largely composed of commercial landlords voted down Labour's amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that would have required landlords to make their properties safe and "fit for human habitation."
The British landlord industry delivers remarkably poor value for money, thanks to the combination of a seller's market for housing, the systematic dismantling of tenancy protections, and the absurd "freeholder" system that means that even people who own their homes have landlords whom they have to pay "ground rent" to and then beg for maintenance.
Our own landlords, Tuckerman, routinely take six months or more literally to fix a broken light in a stairwell -- they represent a "social housing" enterprise that bought our building as a for-profit investment, and have subcontracted our maintenance to a third party, Metro, whom they point their fingers at and shrug when months tick by without routine maintenance being completed while we stumble up and down the stairs in the dark.
In discussing this with other Britons, I've discovered that it's absolutely normal and par for the course. When something terrible goes on for years without a solution, you come to realise that the situation is a feature and not a bug for the people in charge.
There are no natural disasters, only human ones.
Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment in January 2016, said at the time that renters lacked “basic consumer protection” when things went wrong.
“The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently,” she said.
“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.
“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”
The Government claimed the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.
Corbyn tried to pass law to make homes safe last year – the Conservatives rejected it
[Jack Peat/The London Economic]