The Housing & Finance Institute (HFI) wants no new tower block construction to begin until safety can be assured. It is also calling for a review into the future of existing high rise blocks to consider whether they should be demolished instead of repaired.
The think tank said government can still meet its housebuilding target of one million homes by 2022 by building at greater density and accelerating development outside the capital.
More than 75 tower blocks have already been identified as being “at risk” by the authorities since the Grenfell tragedy earlier this month. The HFI said it could take a decade for people to regain confidence in high-rise living.
It called for a shift in strategy beyond the centre of London, saying more than 70% of all housing opportunity lies in planning permissions outside the big metropolitan centres.
Natalie Elphicke, a former government housing adviser and HFI chief executive today addressed an audience at the Chartered Institute of Housing.
“Following the Grenfell tragedy, we must urgently review the future of high rise tower blocks in our cities,” she said.
“Not only should we enact an immediate pause on the construction of new blocks that haven’t yet started, but we should actively consider whether we would be better off simply demolishing the existing buildings identified as being at risk instead of repairing them.
“Building at greater densities and accelerating construction outside of the cities can deliver the one million new homes we need by 2022 – without risking a repetition of the horrific fire at Grenfell that cost so many lives.”
The Grenfell fire is the deadliest fire on mainland Britain since records began at the turn of the 20th century. It surpassed the previous worst residential housing event, Ronan Point in Newham 1968, which left five dead and seventeen injured.
But the country’s housing needs are in a very different place from when the aftermath of Ronan Point was being assessed.
In 1969 there was a projected surplus of a million homes. This stands in stark contrast to the million homes ambition to close the housing deficit in 2017.
“In 1969 the government could choose to prioritise new repair and de-prioritise new housing schemes,” says the report. “In 2017 the government will need to do all three – repair, protect, and also secure new homes.”