Grenfell Tower disaster survivors not rehoused properly


This 20 June 2017 video from London, England says about itself:

Charlotte Lomas reports from North Kensington as some Grenfell Tower residents are still homeless, sleeping at the Westway Sports Centre or in some cases cars or the local park.

Another video from London, England used to say about itself:

Luxury mansions near Grenfell Tower sit EMPTY while homeless victims are forced to camp in emergency shelters

17 June 2017

THESE multi-million pound mansions sit empty in the shadow of burned out Grenfell Tower — while survivors sleep in emergency shelters.

Dozens of families have been made homeless after Wednesday’s inferno ripped through nearly every one of the 24-storey block’s 120 flats …

These multi-million pound mansions and townhouses are just some of the over 1,300 empty properties in Kensington and Chelsea.

More: 1,652 empty properties in North Kensington alone

The £30m former Algerian Embassy building in Holland Park is within walking distance of Grenfell Tower and could house displaced survivors.

On Blenheim Crescent, a £7million townhouse has been empty for around ten years.

A £4m property on Clarendon Road is empty after its owner passed away.

Grenfell Tower was gutted by an inferno on Wednesday morning.

Survivors of the blaze have been sleeping in emergency accommodation in Westway Community Centre.

But expensive foreign-owned properties within walking distance remain barren — highlighting the stark divide between rich and poor in the area.

Uncovered by [Conservative] MailOnline, one of the properties is a sprawling mansion in exclusive Holland Park which has been empty for three years.

The former Algerian embassy sold in 2003 for £8.1million — but is worth over three times that today as it’s on sale for offers around £30million.

And a nearby four-storey townhouse in Blenheim Crescent has been allowed to fall into disrepair since its rich owners abandoned it and moved away.

“No one has lived there for about ten years,” a neighbour told MailOnline.

“It would make a great home for someone but it’s just left there to rot.”

Kensington and Chelsea has 1,399 homes sitting empty — many of them being investor-owned shells bought only to make a profit.

The lavish former Algerian Embassy has been empty for around three years.

A neighbour said the £30m property would make a perfect home.

Grenfell victims could be housed in ‘ghost houses’ like the Holland Park mansion.

Several families could be temporarily housed in the building …

Labour has called for some of the £9.4billion-worth of lavish empty properties to be requisitioned to house desperate Grenfell survivors.

“Kensington is a tale of two cities“, leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country.

“The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – to make sure those residents do get re-housed locally.”

By Thomas Scripps in Britain:

Former Grenfell Tower residents left without permanent accommodation

4 August 2017

Five weeks after the Grenfell Tower inferno killed at least 80 people and made hundreds homeless, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) announced a rehousing policy for survivors.

The plan was put together by the emergency team air-dropped into the RBKC by the Conservative government to salvage the official administration’s inept and callous handling of the catastrophe. This included dumping survivors in the Westway Sport and Fitness Centre, where they had to sleep on the floor; placing them in hotels across the capital without contact with the council, clothes, food or financial assistance; and pressuring households to accept unsuitable rehousing offers.

Faced with growing hostility among local residents, the new management’s primary concern is to quieten opposition and bring matters back under the control of the authorities in what amounts to a giant public relations campaign and political cover-up.

Addressing former residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk, the council lists a series of commitments regarding the funds and future housing options to be made available.

According to the document, former residents will be given the highest possible priority for permanent social housing (that is, a lifetime secure tenancy in a council property or lifetime assured tenancy in a housing association) and will be rehoused within the next 12 months. The Council states it will not force residents to accept an offer of social housing and will not penalise them for refusing.

Offered properties will be of equal to or larger size than the homes lost in the fire; the rent on these houses—charged after a 12-month amnesty on rent and utility bills—will be set no higher than the rent paid in Grenfell. The policy applies to Council introductory or secure tenants, resident leaseholders, subtenants or lodgers of the above and tenants of non-resident leaseholders.

Replacing those homes destroyed in a disaster of their own making is the least the immensely wealthy RBKC can do, but residents should remain wary of this offer. As ever, the devil is in the detail.

The policy contains no commitment to rehousing residents locally, close to their jobs and support networks. While households will be allowed the right to refuse unsuitable properties, there is no guarantee that sufficient local or more generally suitable housing will be made available and offered. Currently, only 45 households have accepted accommodation offers, with only 12 properly rehoused. London continues to suffer a chronic housing shortage. Multi-million-pound developers then work to ensure that as little of that short supply is wasted on the working class. Last year, RBKC agreed deals worth almost £50 million to enable developers to avoid building “affordable homes” in the borough.

With the source of new housing uncertain, the FAQ document to former residents makes the following key statement:

“We hope that you will be offered a property that is acceptable to you within twelve months, but we will make more offers for as long as it is reasonable and practical to do so (emphasis added).” This leaves the whole “commitment” subject to withdrawal at the “reasonable and practical” whim of the Council.

Before residents find any suitable permanent housing, the policy states the intention to house them in temporary accommodation, as distinct from emergency accommodation like hotels. Offers of temporary accommodation will likewise be made “as long as it is reasonable and practical to do so.”

What rights households will have in these properties is unclear. Significantly, the 12 months’ worth of paid rent and utilities begins once residents move into temporary accommodation and not into their new permanent homes. This puts a clock on residents to accept offers soon so as to make financial arrangements. Many will end up waiting in poor emergency accommodation to avoid this situation.

The rehousing policy confirms the meagre funding to be allocated by the government to those affected: £5,000 plus £500 for each household member over 16 as a means of restarting a family—most of whom were already in a fragile economic position and are now dispossessed, traumatised and uprooted.

The £10,000 “fresh start” payment to households mentioned in the FAQ is drawn from the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation and administered by the Rugby Portobello Trust, two charities independent of the government and council. Overall, the three main charities involved in Grenfell—the K&C Foundation, British Red Cross and London Community Foundation (working with the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund)—have put forward over £11 million in support, compared to the national government’s £5 million.

RBKC and government officials are aware of the immense social discontent among the British working class for which Grenfell has become a catalyst. In the case of rehousing, their ultimate aim, as with the public inquiry organised by Prime Minister Theresa May, is to placate working class opposition with meaningless promises in the hope of eventually returning to business as usual.

Assuming the Grenfell survivors do make it to homes they are happy with, they will be confronted once again with the criminal practices of deregulation, privatisation and social cleansing which produced Grenfell. Conservative and Labour councils across London have spent the past decades neglecting working class communities and throwing them out of the capital to make way for luxury apartments and neighbourhoods fit for the ruling and upper middle class. There are at least 214 “regeneration” schemes underway in London that will result in a net loss of 7,326 social rented homes.

This video from London, England says about itself:

3 August 2017

111 more buildings have failed new fire tests, carried out after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Among them are tower blocks at the Chalcots Estate in North London. Residents had been told by the council that their homes were safe – but many disagreed. Now, there’s also a row about who should pay for cladding to be taken down.

From the World Socialist Web Site in London, England:

Grenfell fire survivors speak out over poor treatment

By our reporters

4 August 2017

Grenfell Tower survivor Christos Fairbairn described his shabby treatment by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council:

“I was put in a hotel for the first two weeks, then they came to me with an offer of a place that was behind the Houses of Parliament. It’s in a nice place, a nice area, but I’ve gone into the house and it’s small, there was a leak so the walls were wet. It wasn’t liveable and they knew that.”

He continued, “My thought is that they are trying to palm us off for 12 months, let everything die down. Then when legislation changes and rules are changed, then they’re going to palm us off for good.”

Asked whether fellow residents had a similar experience, Christos explained, “Because [many of the residents] are not British or English, the council think they can offer them stupid things because they don’t have the understanding. A lot of people are just taking places, not knowing that they don’t have to take it. … For me personally, we need to stick together and we need to fight against the council for our rights.”

Munira has not been offered any housing that is acceptable to her by the council. She managed to escape from Grenfell Tower with her husband, two children, father-in-law and sister-in-law. She said, “There are six of us. We were put in a Premier Inn hotel and we are still there. It is outside the borough. They gave us two rooms. My husband has a room with my disabled father-in-law and looks after him. And I have another room with my sister-in-law and two kids in there.

“They offered us three properties and they know my father-in-law is disabled and has medical problems. One of the places was outside the borough. My advocate says we have a right to look for properties online and rent privately, so I went online and looked for properties and I found some. I told them, ‘I am from Grenfell Tower.’ And they replied, ‘We cannot deal with you directly. You have to go through Kensington and Chelsea Council. They are dealing with you.’

“I then got told by the housing allocator at the council, ‘If you go private, you will lose your rights as tenants of Kensington and Chelsea and the landlord can kick you out any time.’

“My father-in-law would need a stair-lift to go up and downstairs in any house, but they said, ‘We can’t do that. It’s too expensive.’ Yet again they are talking about saving money.

“Two days ago I heard that one of my neighbours at Grenfell accepted an offer to get a private place. I don’t understand why we can’t. We got offered a three-bedroom place, but there is no storage space there at all. My husband is getting depressed because the housing allocator keeps calling him saying, ‘Why haven’t you accepted the flat yet?’ We were told by our advocate we have 21 days to make up our mind but the allocator keeps pushing us and saying, ‘We want to know why you won’t accept.’ We can’t even drill in the bathroom to put a bar on so he [father-in-law] can sit down and stand up.

“The council said when you accept the place it is 12 months’ rent-free, but they have offered what we are not happy with. They have burnt our house down. We had two bedrooms, but we were happy. I met the housing officer and he said, ‘When you accept a place the rent will be the same as what you had at Grenfell.’ My husband said, ‘But what will happen after the 12 months? Will it still be the same then?’ They had no reply to that. Also, the lady who was showing us around admitted, ‘After one year we don’t know what is going to happen with you.’”

Munira continued, “Whatever has happened here has brought us closer and we are united. If we are not happy with your offer we are not going to take it. Do what you want to do. They are acting like they are doing us a favour. They are thinking, ‘Their house got burnt down and we are offering a three-bed house.’ We are being treated like we are beggars. But we will fight this and stand together.”

Stephen, who is asthmatic, lived just 70 yards away from Grenfell Tower. He has suffered ongoing health problems since the fire, which produced vast quantities of deadly hydrogen cyanide from the flammable cladding in which it was encased, as well as other toxic fumes. At a recent public meeting called by the Grenfell Response Team, he demanded of council leader Elizabeth Campbell that he be rehoused.

Stephen

Speaking to the WSWS, Stephen, who is visibly shaken at recent events said, “We have had eight years of this. First they got rid of the car park [that would have allowed proper access to the building by fire engines when the fire broke out and was previously a fire assembly point for residents]. Then they built the [private, for rich people] school there, then they clad the tower and then there was the fire. I really thought when the fire started that it would soon be over and that the fire brigade would put it out.”

Stephen spoke about the callous attitude to Grenfell Tower residents of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). The block that Stephen lived in is also run by KCTMO. “Someone from the TMO came around to my flat and they didn’t want to know. They spent about 10 minutes there. They said, ‘Why didn’t I make myself voluntarily homeless in order to get another place.’ I can’t believe they said that. I was homeless before and finally managed to get a place to live.”

Stephen said he had now been offered hotel accommodation, which he has accepted , but is only now starting to “process” the fire and its aftermath, which is proving to be traumatic. Some of the things he saw would be with him all his life. Stephen told the WSWS he saw the new head of the KCTMO, Elaine Elkington, had made a statement on taking over the role on Tuesday.

Elkington said, “I’ m looking forward to working with our resident-led board and with staff to move the organisation forward at a business-critical time.”

While addressing the lucrative business opportunities that are the main priority of the KCTMO, Elkington did not make a single reference to the June 4 inferno in which at least 80 people perished in a terrible death. Stephen said, “I can’t believe that she didn’t mention the fire. These people don’t care.”

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