SHAC, the network of housing association and coop residents, has condemned the failure of L&Q and Southern housing associations to safeguard the lives of tenants in Samuel Garside House on the Barking Riverside estate, for which it is the superior landlord.
The revelations in the recently leaked Bureau Veritas report into the Barking Riverside fire in 2019 demonstrates that once again, major housing associations have callously disregarded tenant and resident safety. It is a failing all too evident within the housing association sector.
As Inside Housing reported (“Leaked Barking fire report reveals ‘significant risk to life’ from blaze”, 6 May 2020), the cladding used actually aided the fire’s spread, instead of barring its path. The focus of developers was instead (erroneously) on an assumed exemption arising from lower levels of regulations applicable to buildings under 18 feet tall.
L&Q are the majority shareholders of the developers, Barking Riverside Limited, of the private estate known as Barking Riverside on which Samuel Garside House is situated. Southern Housing holds a sublease for 32 flats for social housing within the block.
SHAC Chair, Niall Mulholland said
“The penalties against housing associations for such breaches remain woefully inadequate, even as we reach the third anniversary of the tragic Grenfell fire. While the Barking fire did not fortunately result in the loss of life for residents, nonetheless the impact on the families affected has been devastating, with the shock and trauma of the incident, the loss of their homes, and the destruction of their entire belongings in some cases.”
In a further echo of the Grenfell fire, residents have evidence showing that they warned their landlords of the fire risks from cladding long before the incident in 2019. It is clear to SHAC members that the social housing sector will not voluntarily take responsibility for the safety of tenants and residents. New legislation needs to be introduced which divests power over building design and maintenance to those living in housing association properties.