It’s been a year since 72 people tragically lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower Fire.
Since then, what progress has been made to support the survivors and make sure nothing like this ever happens again? I’m a Shelter housing advisor, and I’ve been working in the area since it happened – supporting many of those who were affected by the fire to find a new home.
Has everyone from the tower been rehoused?
Some 210 families who lived in the tower lost their homes, and many more in the surrounding area have been affected. Many are the friends and families of the 72 people lost. As I write this, only 81 people have a new place to call home, and 129 are still in temporary accommodation or hotels.
Progress has been slow– a major barrier being been the lack of affordable homes in the area, a problem that is mirrored across the UK. Along with our partners (North Kensington Law Centre, Kensington and Chelsea Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), and the Westway Trust), we’ve been working tirelessly to ensure severely traumatised residents who fall outside of the rehousing policy are listened to and their housing needs addressed.
What has been done about unsafe cladding on other buildings?
The unsafe cladding that was found on the Grenfell Tower has been found on hundreds of tower blocks across the country. Only a tiny proportion (seven out of 158 socially owned blocks) have had their cladding removed and replaced, while some private blocks still remain unidentified.
The government recently announced it would fully fund the removal of unsafe cladding, which could total up to £400 million. This is welcome news and partly the result of thousands of Shelter supporters taking action – but this needs to be new money. It’s unclear if this funding means a trade-off between government paying for works, or if it plans to take it from the Affordable Homes Budget. As our work in the community shows me every day, people shouldn’t have to choose between being safe and having an affordable place to live.
Earlier this year, our supporters also played a key role in making sure the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill made its way through parliament. This bill could help prevent another tragedy like Grenfell by ensuring that residents’ voices and concerns are acted upon.
What does this mean for the future of social housing?
We know the causes of the tragedy run much deeper than the cladding. Many people in the area have spoken to us about feeling like they haven’t been heard, and that they are treated like second-class citizens. That’s why it’s good news that after pressure from the community, the panel will be expanded for the official inquiry – though they shouldn’t have had to campaign to make this happen.
The priority must be listening to residents’ voices and ensuring their views are represented.
Our Big Conversation is being led by 16 independent commissioners, three of whom are members of the Grenfell community. They’re keen to hear from communities all over the UK about their experience of social housing, and what needs to change.
You can be part of this by adding your voice to our Big Conversation survey before June 10th. We want to hear your opinions on social housing. Over 22,000 people up and down the UK have already taken part, and the result will be a powerful blueprint for change.
One year on, the tragedy our thoughts are with the survivors and those whose lives were lost. We hope that by coming together we can prevent another tragedy.
Photo credit: By ChiralJon (Grenfell Tower) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons