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Learning lessons from the London Grenfell Tower fire

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The burnt out shell of London's Grenfell Tower is a tragic reminder of the important role of governments in ensuring people are properly housed. Outsourcing or weakly enforcing standards leads to calamity.

Grenfell Tower was clad with highly combustible foam and aluminum, chosen because it was cheaper. The building had no sprinkler system or evacuation plan. The residents were mostly poor.

Under pressure, British Prime Minister Theresa May conceded that "for too long in our country, under governments of both colours, we simply haven't given enough attention to social housing".

"This itself is actually a symptom of an even more fundamental issue," she said. "In this tower just a few miles from the houses of parliament, and in the heart of our great city, people live a fundamentally different life, do not feel the state works for them and are therefore mistrustful of it."

In Australia we are chronically short of public and social housing. We don'…