1984 – 37 years on

1984 – 37 years on

This happened in 1984, why is it happening 37 years later?

This is taken from the Inquiry: The Great British Housing Disaster (1984)

Transcript from the ending summary

As an amateur my job is to look after tenants and manage housing, I’m not an engineer or a surveyor. It is difficult as an amateur to criticise professionals, but the only way I can respond to the question is to say that the calming and impressive manner of these well heeled professionals who argue these buildings are safe or can be made safe is exactly the same kind of information and argument that was put by the very people who designed them in the first place. Those experts built these buildings that have now been shown to warrant £33m worth of repairs, that’s £33m worth of a professional mistake. And the cost of that has to be met because the builder went bankrupt, and the professionals responsible can’t be nailed for it, the cost of that has to be found by rate payers and rent payers, and rent payers in this borough are rate payers too. And the cost falls back on the tenant. And on this estate, a large number of the tenants are unwaged, below the poverty line and elderly people. And if you’re asking me to accept the word of people that built this rubbish and to accept their argument for remedial works and to say because they’re professionals I must believe it, I’m asking you to believe that a £33m mistake is evidence for the amateur to argue that you reject the so called professional arguments, you listen to the tenants, you look with your own eyes and you use the evidence of those observations and the horror stories that people tell you of the problems that they’ve had with flooding and defects and deficiencies, and you are guided by them and not by so called professionals, who frankly i don’t believe have a clue about what they’re doing here

Robert Young – Housing Manager London Borough of Hackney 1984

Doesn’t it strike you as complete madness? This happened 37 years ago to a previous generation. And yet, here we are, full circle faced with the SAME problems of bad building and deregulation.

£33m worth of remediation in 1984? According to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, this is the equivalent of £108m in 2020.

We don’t know how many flats this was between, but if you take the lower end of the average remediation bill today at £25k, we are estimating approximately 4,320 flats would receive this bill. That’s over 4,000 households in Hackney facing life-changing bills in 1984. If they did have to cover the cost, can you imagine the level of poverty they would be living in now? Can you imagine the impact on their children, grandchildren? What about their pension funds, children’s education? Money all gone because of a £33m “mistake”.

What hasn’t been publicly modelled, or we don’t have visibility of, is the economic impact of such a strategy. If there was any way to see the effects from 1984, it’s now, as it crucially affects how we treat leaseholders today; and ultimately crucial to how this crisis is solved. Not just today, but for consumers in the future. We need a protection that will not lead to another “building crisis” in another 30 or so years.

Robert Young – who at the time was Housing Manager at London Borough of Hackney 1984
Please back the Polluter Pays Bill – we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again in another 30 years