Grenfell figures reveal social housing shortage amid glut of empty luxury property


Kensington housing crisis revealed by Grenfell fire deaths 

THE WEALTHY BOROUGH of Kensington and Chelsea, where the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire disaster took place, represents the extreme segregation of UK housing policy, according to new figures released by researchers. 

There are 1,399 vacant dwellings are in the borough according to Kensington and Chelsea council research, with many properties linked to offshore tax haven ownership – the mechanism of the property speculation industry. 

While many of these buildings have been left empty, accruing value for their corporate owners, the public housing stock has been left to deteriorate or be sold off. Ben Kentish, journalist at the Independent, said: “Kensington and Chelsea Council cares so much about social homes that it’s built just 10 – yes 10 – of them in the last 28 years.

“To those saying there’s no room to build, in the same period private property developers built 4060 homes in the borough. The council built 10.”

Read more – Watch: Aamer Anwar savages “pound shop Thatcher” May over Grenfell tragedy

The right-to-buy process – ongoing in England yet ended in Scotland – means that thousands of publicly financed housing stock buildings are privatised. A report from Shelter in 2015 found that the extension of Right to Buy would pressure the sale of up to 97 per cent of all remaining council housing in Kensington and Chelsea. 

The most recent police figures suggest that at least 79 people are confirmed dead or missing from the inferno that rushed through the 24-storey tower block. Residents had campaigned for years, warning the council and government authorities of failed safety features in the building. A police investigation has begun. 

Kensington and Chelsea saw 158 per cent growth in average house prices between 2005 and 2015, according to a London Authority report. The average price in Kensington and Chelsea was £1.35m as of 2015.  

Yet despite being one of the wealthiest areas in the world, the council has been unable to confirm that surviving victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will be rehoused locally. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for the empty properties in the area to be “requisitioned if necessary” to provide housing. 

Read more – Burning embers: Below Grenfell Tower crises meet and unrest grows

‘Who Owns England?’ also highlighted the problem of empty properties in the area.  

Living Rent, Scotland’s tenant’s union which campaigns for a just housing policy, told CommonSpace: “Living Rent would like to express our sympathy to the tenants of Grenfell Tower and all those affected by this horrific event. Although many details are still to emerge it is clear that some serious questions have to be asked regarding how this tragedy could have been averted. 

“Residents and tenant’s groups had been warning of the possibility of such a tragedy for years, but it appears that not only were these warnings ignored, but steps were taken to actively silence the tenants calling for action regarding the safety of the building.

“Housing is a human right and last night’s tragic event further highlights the need for housing to be run for the benefit of all, rather than for private profit. We call for tenants to no longer be silenced and to be actively involved in decisions about the safety and maintenance of their homes.”

Picture courtesy of sarflondondunc

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