In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster we find the survivors dangling precariously above their uncertain futures, holding onto weak strings clutched by a slippery and untrusted government. It comes as no surprise that there is anger on the streets and unrest across the country. We are forced to wait for answers, attribution and action but there is one thing the government cannot avoid – rehousing the survivors.
It’s no secret that born and bred Londoners have been hurled into a housing crisis under Tory rule, which has resulted in devastating effects.
I’ve met countless families who have been ripped away from their family and friends, with children forced to travel an hour and a half just to get to school.
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan
As a result of this crisis, those who remain in London exist under the threat that they will be priced out of homes and lives. It’s completely understandable that society wants a guarantee that this will not happen to the survivors of the Grenfell tragedy. However, it seems like it is happening – whispers on the streets of Kensington tell of residents being removed from the area already. Anger spreads as suspicion grows.
In what seems like a bid to tame growing angst, it was revealed yesterday that some survivors are to be rehomed in new apartments in the area. In a luxury development on High Street Kensington where prices start at £1.5million, sixty eight flats have been acquired. The whole approach feels surreal and it raises a lot of questions about how this outcome will affect the survivors. Will those who are not chosen to reside in these flats be placed in flats of equal value? Will the residents who are rehomed here be ‘allowed’ to use on-site facilities like the private cinema and pool? More importantly, why might they not be allowed? What will be the social consequence of being made to feel segregated from private purchasers within the development before they’ve even moved in? What will be the psychological effect of the victims being treated as though they are unworthy of a solution that they have no say in?
“I’m very sad that people have lost their homes, but there are a lot of people here who have bought flats and will now see the values drop. It will degrade things. And it opens up a can of worms in the housing market”
“We paid a lot of money to live here, and we worked hard for it. Now these people are going to come along, and they won’t even be paying the service charge.”
Residents of Kensington Row, where survivors are to be rehoused
It’s not hard to imagine the ill feelings that this negativity might trigger. After going through such a horrendous ordeal, then being let down by continuous government failures, then being told they might be amongst the few that get to be housed in luxury apartments (but that it’ll be met with the attitude that they’re unwanted pests) doesn’t strike one as particularly protective of these vulnerable victims. To give people who have been through so much tragedy a glimpse of hope and then shroud it with unwarranted guilt, is cruel. To leave the many other survivors wondering what their fate is, is agonising. Surely, it’s time to shape up and give them all the help they are owed?