Dawn Foster tells us that Grenfell Tower is all because of, well, umm, markets? Fatcher? Neoliberalism perhaps?
After the fire, as details emerged about the intricacies of how the blaze progressed, the focus zoned in on such things as cladding and the provision of sprinklers. But survivors are clear that the inferno was not just a freak accident but the result of decades of neglect and poor policymaking; an indictment of how Britain houses its poorest people.
Across the UK, many others are suffering similar effects of the housing crisis. It has never been a crisis purely of supply and demand, but of shifts in legal tenure, the erosion of housing rights, the decimation of legal aid, the mass sell-off of social housing, and a growing callousness in attitudes towards vulnerable people.
Something did quite obviously go wrong and we'd love to find out what it was. Which we will and then we'll know and it won't be done again. But this isn't in the slightest about the general structure of Britain's housing market:
For Grenfell Tower survivors, empathy was plentiful at first, as the donations and flood of volunteers rushing to west London showed. Then came the chiding calls not to politicise the tragedy, as survivors themselves stated publicly that their ordeal was political, and the snide backlash when the City of London corporation announced they had set aside 68 flats in a Kensington development for survivors.
Let's remind ourselves of the background here. This social housing, this social rather than market asset that it is claimed we should behaving. Grenfell was exactly that social asset, it was social housing. At non-market prices. When it did burn down then equal if not better housing was found a mile or so away, right in the centre of one of the world's most expensive cities. People will be on the same tenure terms as they were.
Again, there has undoubtedly been a failure, that building going up like a torch has shown that. But this isn't a failure of Britain's housing market in the slightest. Nor has the coping with it been badly done. It's actually worth remarking upon quite how well that provision of non-market housing has worked.
There is another point we should make from the evidence Ms. Foster presents us with:
The 80 people who died in the disaster and those who escaped the fire are at the extreme of the spectrum, but currently, there are almost 120,000children homeless or living in temporary accommodation in England.
There are 120,000 children classified as homeless, not 120,000 children actually homeless. This distinction matters. For we have a system to find homes for those who don't have them. Entry into the system requires that one be declared to be homeless first. Thus the classification of homelessness is a necessary precondition of the system which deals with the problem swinging into action. This is of course Worstall's Fallacy all over again, looking at the size of the original problem, not the effectiveness (or not) of the system we have to deal with it.
The residual problem is those sleeping rough. Of whom there are some 4,000 nationally (no, not children, total) at any one time. And, as Ms. Foster tells us, this is a rather different problem:
The footballer turned property developer Gary Neville admitted to the Guardian this week how difficult it was to provide the kind of help rough sleepers need – 40 of the group Neville and Ryan Giggs allowed to stay in their vacant Manchester hotel after it was squatted were rehoused, with 20 ending up back on the streets.
As a little prompting will elicit from anyone involved with aiding those rough sleepers. The prevalence of addictions and mental health problems (variously estimated at up to 75% of this population) means that the difficulty is in keeping them in accommodation, not finding it for them.
There are undoubtedly problems in Britain's housing markets. The Town and Country Planning Act comes to mind. Fire regulations equally. But we have a social housing system, one that really works rather well. We can see that from the residual of the problem after it swings into action. We have many classified as homeless, we have many at risk of it, and absent drug, alcohol and mental health issues we have just about no one who is actually homeless.
That's actually pretty good for government work.