News

Rebuild Grenfell Tower and invest in safe housing

Karin Goodwin, July 12th 2017

The Grenfell Tower should be rebuilt, according to campaigners who want to make sure that no social housing is lost – and no more people become homeless – as a result of the tragic London fire.

Residents’ forum the Radical Housing Network said the tragedy, which at time of going to press had killed 79 men, women and children, was a product of a “greed-driven housing system” where profit was put before people’s lives.

Calling for long-term investment in decent, secure and safe public housing, it claimed it was time the system stopped treating people “with contempt”.

The Grenfell Tower fire started at 12.45am on 14 June and engulfed the 24-storey building, where some 600 people were living, in less than an hour.

It is thought that the cheap cladding, put on to “pimp up” the flats in London’s richest borough of Kensington and Chelsea, caused the fire to spread. Inside Housing reported that fire protections between floors had also been removed temporarily as part of the £10m refurbishment by building firm Rydon.

It also emerged that Grenfell Action Group had raised repeated safety concerns with Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) over the last few years but had been ignored.

Legal letters were sent to activists publishing their concerns online as KCTO claimed they were defamatory.

A spokesperson for Radical Housing Network said: “Grenfell should not be another excuse to demolish council housing. The problem is not council tower blocks – it’s lack of investment and a shockingly irresponsible approach to public building maintenance, safety, and tenants’ concerns.

“The UK housing system treats those at the bottom with contempt. Those on the lowest incomes suffer substandard, dangerous housing and overcrowding.”

Tenants, both those living in council estates or renting privately, have few rights, the spokesperson added. “Grenfell is a human tragedy, but is also a very political, preventable tragedy. It is a product of a greed-driven housing system, in which profit is valued more than the lives of many people.”

A full public inquiry has been announced, with the police following up criminal proceedings. Fire safety reps said the tragedy underlined the need to install sprinklers in all high rises, which was recommended after the Lakanal House fire in 2009 that killed six people.

In 2015 a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Inside Housing revealed just 18 council-owned tower blocks out of 2,925 had sprinklers fitted.

Writing on its blog, a spokesperson for the Grenfell Action Group said, “The many who lost their lives in this catastrophe were our friends and neighbours. We tried to speak for them in life and we will continue to speak for them now.

“We share the pain of the homeless, the injured and the bereaved, to whom we offer our heartfelt sympathy, condolences and solidarity. We also share the sense of anger and injustice that has troubled this community for years.”

 

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November/December 2017

 
 

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