Skip to content
CityLab
Perspective

Grenfell’s Problem Wasn’t Just Lax Regulation

After the tragic, deadly fire in London, there have been calls for increased regulation and inspection, but that alone will drive up rents for the most vulnerable. Cities need a radical change in the way they approach housing.
London's Grenfell Tower covered and illuminated with green light on June 14, 2018, one year after the deadly fire.
London's Grenfell Tower covered and illuminated with green light on June 14, 2018, one year after the deadly fire.Peter Nicholls/Reuters

The Grenfell tragedy in which 71 people died a year ago was a shocking reminder of a worldwide problem: When buildings burn down and lives are lost, the media rehashes well-trodden narratives that shame landlords and the municipal inspections that are supposed to keep them in check. This is usually followed by calls for more safety inspections. But this is the wrong way of addressing the problem: a case of too little, too late.  

Instead of simply increasing regulation and inspections, governments must remove the opportunity for exploitative profit by insisting on rent controls, providing subsidies for necessary repair work, and re-upping their role—both in ownership and management—of housing, before we are dealing with dire situations.