In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is clear that Britain’s social housing is in crisis. As a new film looks at the legacy of Thatcher’s right-to-buy, Rowan Moore asks whether the postwar housing ideal can be revived. Below: David Harewood, Kerry Hudson and others on their experiences of council estate living
Before catastrophe hit Grenfell Tower, it had been planned to publish this feature last weekend. Then, in the immediate aftermath, it was clear that this would be the wrong thing to do, to talk about related but not-identical issues of public housing. It would have been at once too close to the news about Grenfell and not close enough. Now, although the horror is still raw and much about it is still unknown, it has also become clear that Grenfell exposes in the harshest possible way questions of the current state of social housing, about the accessibility, affordability and quality of homes, and their impact on people’s lives. As is reported today, research by Shelter shows that a million households are at risk of homelessness unless a freeze on housing benefit is lifted.
Absurdly, local authorities are now having to pay high rents to house people in homes the councils once owned