Nine months after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed at least 71 people, many survivors are still without permanent housing. And the options they’re being offered are, in some cases, insulting.
On March 22, government minister Sajid Javid told Parliament that the government would likely break its promise to rehouse survivors of the fire within a year. More ex-Grenfell households—82 out of 209 total—are still living in hotels than in permanent accommodations (62). That includes 39 children. Nearly 100 households from flats around Grenfell that were also damaged in the fire are still displaced, too.
Part of the reason for this slowness: The options being offered to the survivors are unacceptable. According to the New York Times, some survivors are being offered accommodations that are obviously not suitable:
“We kept saying we didn’t want to live higher than the third floor or in a large tower block because of the trauma we went through,” said Asma Kazmi, a mother of three who survived the fire.
“For seven months, they showed us flats on high-up floors in big tower blocks,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Others, a spokesman for the organization Grenfell United told the paper, are being offered apartments that have only one exit, despite requests for more than one, or even apartments that overlook the remains of Grenfell itself.
Meanwhile, progress on making other housing safe is also incredibly slow. The Grenfell blaze spread so fast, and was so deadly, in part because of highly flammable “cladding”—a material used on the outside of buildings. According to a report by the Times of London, the cladding was never tested for fire safety. Yet only seven out of 160 social housing blocks that are covered in flammable cladding have been made safe since the fire, and a total of 306 blocks of flats with the cladding have been identified. Hundreds of mostly low-income people are being left to live in housing that could kill them.
Last year, after the fire, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the empty homes of the rich in the area around Grenfell to be requisitioned by the government to house the Grenfell survivors. Corbyn was right, but I’d go further: Until every Grenfell survivor has housing, and not something that overlooks the place where their neighbors died or doesn’t make them feel safe, Prime Minister Theresa May should have to go live in a Travelodge and 10 Downing Street should be turned over to survivors. Buckingham Palace, too. And wherever Piers Morgan lives.