Grenfell was a preventable, political tragedy – authorities must urgently act on promises to rehouse all residents locally, regardless of status

29/06/17 Controversial ‘social cleansing’ judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chosen for Grenfell Inquiry, and Sajid’s Javid’s housing offer –   Radical Housing Network responds.

Following the announcement of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as Judge in the Grenfell inquiry, and Sir Ken Knight as chair of a new panel looking at safety, Radical Housing Network said:

“The appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as the judge in the Grenfell inquiry is deeply distressing. Sir Moore-Bick has a track record of facilitating the social cleansing of London, approving Westminster Council’s decision to house a single mother with five children in Milton Keynes, 50 miles away from their family and networks, a decision later overturned by the Supreme Court. The government are clearly preparing a stitch-up, trying to put a judge at the heart of the establishment in charge of the inquiry, who supports the inhumane housing policies which have led to Grenfell.”

“The new chair of the “independent panel” advising on safety measures is Sir Ken Knight, a man who previously opposed fitting sprinklers in tower blocks and recommended £200m in cuts to the fire service. How can we have faith in this panel to deliver the protection we need? These two appointments are yet further evidence that the establishment is not committed to providing justice for Grenfell residents, and are unwilling to put in place measures which will prevent a tragedy of this enormity from happening again.”

Pilgrim Tucker , who worked with Grenfell Action Group at Grenfell Tower and is continuing to support residents, added:

“Residents from Lancaster West estate asked Theresa May to involve them in the decision making on the Grenfell Inquiry. In appointing Sir Martin Moore-Bick, she has ignored them, and appointed a completely inappropriate judge. We have no faith that this inquiry will produce justice.”

On Sajid Javid’s letter, on 28/06, that all residents made homeless by the Grenfell catastrophe will be permanently rehoused in social housing at social rent, the Radical Housing Network said:

“After over two weeks of uncertainty, and flip-flopping, it is good that the authorities have committed to housing all those made homeless by the fire, regardless of tenure, in permanent social housing at social rent. This is the absolute minimum that should be provided for people who have lost so much.

“However, after appearing to promise homes in borough, the government have backtracked. People housed in neighbouring boroughs could end up living many miles away from their jobs, families and communities. We know Kensington and Chelsea council could afford local homes if they wanted to. They should dip into some of their £274 million surplus, and provide social rented homes in the borough.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a network of housing campaigns from across London. Grenfell Action Group is a member of the Radical Housing Network.

Press contact

Joe Beswick – 07873557040

radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com

@radicalhousing

27/06/17 Lancaster West Estate Residents: Letter to Prime Minister and Home Secretary on the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry

We are the residents of the Walkways surrounding Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West Estate, forced to live in the shadow of the Grenfell disaster.
We support the survivors and mourn the dead – they are our families, friends and neighbours, many of whom are still missing.
We want to ensure that justice is served for everyone on the estate. We therefore demand that our voices are heard and fully included in the public enquiry.
  • We welcome the proposed full public inquiry and the promised consultation with residents and families of the deceased on the terms of reference on which the inquiry will proceed.
  • We also welcome the governments acknowledgement that the voices of residents and victims’ families must be heard by the inquiry and the promise of funding for legal representation to that end.
  • And so as the residents of Hurstway, Testerton, Barandon and Grenfell Walks, we demand that:
    • the scope of the core participants who should be consulted and funded for legal representation should include, not only the bereaved families and survivors, but also civil society representatives and organisations who have a track record of working with the residents;
    • this consultation needs to take place as soon as possible, with arrangements in place to ensure that it can be accessed effectively by all potential core participants;
    • to that end, the funding for legal representation of the bereaved families and survivors should be made available with immediate effect on a non-means tested basis in view of the distress that would otherwise be suffered by residents having to establish entitlement to public funding in the absence of official documentation and when they have lost their homes and possessions;
    • moreover the scope of the consultation should cover, not only the terms of reference, but also:
      • the identity of the proposed Chair and Counsel to the inquiry, including the requisite skills and experience; and
      • the composition of the panel of advisors appointed to assist the inquiry, including the requisite subject matter expertise, skills and experience.
  • This inquiry must enable a comprehensive investigation into:
    • the historical background leading up to the events prior to the fire both here and in relation to other tower block fires and any recommendations which had followed;
    • the fire, its cause/spread, and the immediate emergency response to it;
    • the aftermath of the fire, including the ongoing endeavours of the bereaved families and survivors to obtain the support and assistance they require, and the admitted failures in this regard on the part of the state, local and national.
  • The investigation must leave no stone unturned: it must identify each and every individual and organisation who must bear responsibility and accountability for this tragedy and the mishandling of the aftermath;
  • There must be swift recommendations to ensure there can be no chance of a repeat of this disaster elsewhere;
  • Bereaved families and survivors will require time to recover and grieve, not least in view of the paucity of support they have been afforded by the state and its agencies in the immediate aftermath. To that end, the timetable for the proposed consultation must be established and announced at the earliest opportunity, so that their effective participation can become a reality.

Please contact Lancaster West Residents directly at: lancasterwestresidents@gmail.com

Radical Housing Network press contact:
Joe Beswick on 07873557040 
radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com / Updates follow @radicalhousing

23/06/17 Grenfell Tower residents evicted from emergency hotel accommodation with hours notice

Today residents of Grenfell Tower were given eviction notices by the local council to vacate their temporary accommodation in Kensington, in a move described as ‘barbaric’ by Radical Housing Network.

Residents of Grenfell Tower who had been staying at the Holiday Inn, Kensington, were told today that they were to be separated and moved by 4pm to other temporary hotel accommodation across London, in places such as in Heathrow, Lambeth, Southwark and north London. Following intervention by legal observers, most of the residents have been moved together to a hotel in Westminster.

Pilgrim Tucker, a community organiser working with the Grenfell Action Group and liaising with residents at the hotel, said:

“It’s beyond disgusting that after all these people have been through – losing their neighbours and watching their homes burn to the ground – authorities are prepared to tell them that they have hours to pick up their bags and move to some unknown destination, separated from their friends and neighbours. It makes you wonder if anything’s been learned from the Grenfell catastrophe.”

Radical Housing Network, an alliance of which Grenfell Action Group is a member, said:

“Today Grenfell residents staying together in a Kensington hotel were told they were going to be split up and scattered across London at a moment’s notice. Moving people around who have been through horror and trauma from one temporary accommodation to another is barbaric and unnecessary, and speaks of a degree of callousness by the authorities.

“Only yesterday Sajid Javid was promising that all those made homeless by the Grenfell fire would be rehoused in the borough within a matter of weeks. The government needs to move fast to make good on this commitment to rehouse all those made homeless by this catastrophe, according their wishes and needs.

“We still need answers as to what will happen to private renters, subtenants and homeowners of Grenfell Tower. We strongly suggest that given the scale of the disaster – and the trauma, mismanagement and negligence surrounding this case – all tenants of Grenfell, not just council tenants, are prioritised for permanent social housing in the local borough. If no so such social housing is available, we suggest Kensington & Chelsea council dip into their £274 million cash reserves to buy up property and turn it into social housing.

“Grenfell Tower is an indictment of a broken housing system – one where council housing is systematically run down and tenants are treated with contempt.

“It’s about time we had housing for people not for profit – and public investment in secure, decent, genuinely affordable housing for everyone.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting housing injustice.  Grenfell Action Group is a member of the Radical Housing Network.

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // @radicalhousing

 

23/06/17 Damning MET statement indicates ‘culture of negligence at all levels’ – those responsible must be held to account 

Commenting on the Metropolitan Police statement on the Grenfell Tower investigation, a spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:

“Today’s initial verdict from investigators, which could lead to criminal charges, is beyond damning. It is also an indictment of a broken housing model – one where council housing is systematically run down and tenants are treated with contempt.

“We now know that insulation and cladding tiles which failed safety tests were fitted to a block housing hundreds of people. Fourteen inspections at Grenfell in the last two years failed to pick anything up, despite initial refurbishment proposals and tenant requests for fire resistant cladding – which was never fitted.

“From the council’s estate management organisation failing to respond to repeated resident complaints, to the reported delaying of a fire safety review by government ministers, it’s clear that a culture of negligence existed at all levels. Those responsible must be held to account. In particular, Kensington & Chelsea council leader Nick Paget-Brown must answer questions on what appear to be multiple failings by his local authority and its privately contracted service providers.

“The issues raised by this initial verdict go far beyond Grenfell, and we must take urgent action to guarantee the safety of our homes. Only public investment in housing can ensure that we stop cost-cutting for the sake of profit and that council tenants lives are put before other concerns.

“People everywhere need and deserve safe, decent and genuinely affordable housing, run for the public good, not for profit.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting housing injustice. For all press statements see radicalhousingnetwork.org.Grenfell Action Group is a member of the Radical Housing Network.

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // Follow @radicalhousing

 

21/06/17 Housing offer for Grenfell tenant families – the least that should happen

In response to news that the Corporation of London has offered affordable housing to families of Grenfell in a luxury block, Radical Housing Network said:

“We’re pleased that the Corporation of London has stepped in to offer social housing to Grenfell residents – the very least that should happen is that existing social tenants are offered alternative social housing after their homes have been burnt to the ground following council and government negligence.

“It’s unclear whether these flats will be available to private renters, homeowners or subtenants of Grenfell Tower. We call on public authorities to rehouse all those made homeless by the Grenfell catastrophe, whatever their status.

“The Kensington Row development had an existing affordable housing quota. In many of these developments, such as at 1 Commercial Street, residents of the ‘affordable’ housing units are kept separate from wealthier neighbours by being made to use separate entrances and only having access to limited building services.

“We abhor the way in which developers of luxury blocks meet ‘affordable’ housing quotas by designing buildings in which those on low-incomes are kept out of sight from the rich.

“The key issue is that there are almost 2 million people on council housing waiting lists across the UK – including thousands in Kensington & Chelsea alone. Long term we need public investment in council housing, which will save public money over the long run. Currently, the government spends £23 billion every year on housing benefit which goes directly into landlord’s pockets.

“We need housing for people not for profit – and public investment in secure, decent, genuinely affordable housing for everyone.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting housing injustice. For all press statements see radicalhousingnetwork.org.

Grenfell Action Group is a member of the Radical Housing Network.

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // Follow @radicalhousing

 

19/06/17 Grenfell was a preventable, political tragedy – authorities must urgently act on promises to rehouse all residents locally, regardless of status

Government and RBKC must take responsibility to rehouse all ‘who called Grenfell home’ in the local area, regardless of their residential or immigration status, said Radical Housing Network, an alliance of groups fighting housing injustice of which Grenfell Action Group is a member.

Grenfell Tower was home to council and private tenants, homeowners, subtenants, and to many people from other countries including migrants and asylum seekers. Regardless of status, authorities must urgently ensure ‘all residents’ future safety and security’, a spokesperson said.

Radical Housing Network added that tower block architecture should not be a focus of blame, and that only reinvestment in public housing would ensure Grenfell marks a turning point in how we house people.


Radical Housing Network is demanding:

  • That all Grenfell residents be offered long-term and affordable housing in their local area – to meet this need, RBKC should buy private property and turn it into council housing.
  • That not a single unit of social housing is lost following the Grenfell catastrophe – this must not be an opportunity to denigrate council tower blocks with the back-handed intention of privatising homes or for developers to make a profit.
  • That public investigation into the tragedy (via inquest and/or inquiry) is independent, and has the complete trust of those affected. It should leave no stone unturned.
  • Long-term investment in decent, secure, safe public housing. Grenfell is the result of 30 years of council housing disinvestment, deregulation and austerity.

A spokesperson from Radical Housing Network said:

“We’re calling on the government in conjunction with RBKC to act on their commitment to house all Grenfell residents in the local area, in long-term accommodation which meets their needs  – given there are already almost 3,000 people waiting for social housing in Kensington & Chelsea,  RBKC should buy private property and turn it into council housing.

“Crucially, public authorities must commit to rehousing all residents to ensure their future safety and security –.Grenfell was home to council tenants, private renters, homeowners, subtenants, and to many people from other countries including migrants and asylum seekers. The council has a responsibility to all these people. No-one should be left in a worse situation by this tragedy, and the Grenfell community must be allowed to heal together in the local area if they wish to.

“Further, Grenfell should not be another excuse to demolish council housing. It’s concerning that amidst tragedy, tower block architecture has once again become a focus of blame. 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 – whoever the landlord is. Tenants have few rights or say in their housing, whether they live on a council estate or rent privately.

“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.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting housing injustice.

Grenfell Action Group is a member of the Radical Housing Network.  Edward Daffern and Grenfell Action Group ask that journalists do not contact them at this time.

Please direct all press requests for Grenfell Action Group to Radical Housing Network, we will be releasing more information if and when Grenfell Action Group are available for press.

Radical Housing Network aims to ensure that the voice of the Grenfell Action Group is heard, to demand #Justice4Grenfell and for all those who suffer under Britain’s broken housing system.

Videos available

A video interview with Pilgrim Tucker, of Grenfell Action Group, is available here.  A video statement from RHN is available here.  Both videos are free to use with attribution to Radical Housing Network.

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // Follow @radicalhousing

16/06/17 Grenfell Tower must mark turning point for UK housing

Grenfell Action Group and Radical Housing Network are demanding:

  • An independent Inquest and a Public Inquiry, so that no stone be left unturned in investigating what led to this horrific event, and tenants are able to have a voice.
  • That public authorities be held to account and criminal proceedings brought against all those responsible.
  • That all Grenfell residents be offered long-term and affordable housing in their local area – to meet this need, RBKC should buy local private property and turn it into council housing.
  • That not a single unit of social housing is lost following the Grenfell catastrophe – this must not be an opportunity to privatise homes or for developers to make a profit.

A spokesperson from Radical Housing Network said:
“We demand an inquest and a public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster, so that no stone be left unturned in bringing those responsible to account, and that criminal proceedings are brought.

“For decades, council housing has been run into the ground and council tenants treated with contempt. Now it’s time to go into reverse gear – this has to be a turning point for UK housing.

“The Grenfell community must be allowed to heal together and residents must not be separated from their neighbours. If there is not enough social housing to house residents locally, the council should buy private property and turn this into council housing, rather than lining the pockets of private landlords.

“The UK housing system treats those at the bottom with contempt. Those on the lowest incomes suffer substandard, dangerous housing and overcrowding – whoever the landlord is. Tenants have few rights or say in their housing, whether they live on a council estate or rent privately.

“The UK urgently needs to rebuild its stock of decent, affordable, safe social housing.

“We need a housing system that puts people’s lives ahead of profit.”

Notes to Editors

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide alliance of grassroots housing campaigns of which Grenfell Action Group are a member.

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // Follow @radicalhousing

14/06/17 Justice for Grenfell Tower

‘Managed decline’ of council housing and contempt for tenants contributed to fire

Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.

The catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was foreseen by a community group on the estate. Just 7 months ago, Grenfell Action Group, a member of Radical Housing Network, warned that failings in the estate management organisation’s health and safety practices and attitude were a “recipe for a future major disaster”. These warnings were dismissed by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) council.

It’s been revealed that Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, ‘sat on’ a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire. Last year, Barwell was one of 312 Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation’.

Radical Housing Network called the fire a horrendous example of the consequences of a combination of government cuts, local authority mismanagement, and sheer contempt for council tenants and the homes they live in – and an indictment of London’s housing inequality.

A spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:

“The fire at Grenfell is a horrific, preventable tragedy for which authorities and politicians must be held to account. Grenfell’s council tenants are not second class citizens – yet they are facing a disaster unimaginable in Kensington’s richer neighbourhoods.

“This Government, and many before it, have neglected council housing, and disregarded its tenants as if they were second class. Nationally and locally, politicians have subjected public housing to decades of systematic disinvestment – leaving properties in a state of disrepair, and open to privatisation. Regeneration, when it has come, has been for the benefit of developers and buy-to-let landlords, who profit from the new luxury flats built in place of affordable homes. Across London, regeneration has meant evictions, poor quality building work, and has given tenants little meaningful influence over the future of their estates.

“The chronic underinvestment in council housing and contempt for tenants must stop. It is an outrage that in 21st Britain, authorities cannot be trusted to provide safe housing, and that people in council properties cannot put children safely to bed at night.

“We support demands for a public inquiry into this disaster – there must be Justice for Grenfell. We call for the immediate resignation of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, alongside anyone else whose negligence has contributed to this tragedy.

“All Grenfell Tower residents must be offered secure, long-term local housing by RBKC, and public authorities should ensure that not one unit of social housing is lost following this catastrophe – this must not be an opportunity for the council to privatise homes, or for someone to make a quick buck.”

Notes for editors:

Grenfell Action Group had outlined concerns on their blog over a series of posts, but were ignored by authorities. The group repeatedly warned the estate landlord, Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) of serious issues with fire safety in the blocks, highlighting the absence of basic fire protection measures including fire extinguishers and a building-wide fire alarm system. The local council, Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea (RBKC), dismissed residents’ concerns as it pushed through a £8.6 million regeneration scheme.  

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting for housing justice. Grenfell Action Group is a member group of RHN.

 

Contact: radicalhousingnetwork@gmail.com // @radicalhousing

Our latest blog looks at responses to the GLA’s draft guide to estate regeneration from around the housing movement.

Take a look

News from around the network….

 

Read some of what our member groups are up to at the moment:  rent striking, marching against sexism , opposing local authority gatekeeping and sell offs, fighting for prison land to be used for social housing and the organising against deportations of rough sleepers (see the new bust cards in our resources section on this), as well as local authorities’ refusal to house migrant families...

 

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Brexit and international organising…

Have a read of this guest post, which argues that UK organisers should look to international grassroots organising post-Brexit, available here.

MIPIM occupied!

We took on MIPIM, the world’s largest property fair, with a fun action outside the conference and the occupation of one of the student landlords who’s profiteering privatised student housing. Watch the video and read more here.


The Radical Housing Network is made up of groups fighting for housing justice, based in London.

banner making mipim

Housing: Groups within our network work on a wide range of housing issues, including but not limited to, private renting, social housing, squatting, access to benefits, homelessness, and co-operative housing.

Radical: We feel we are not represented by mainstream politics, and seek to organise a movement for housing justice from below, across tenure, rooted in people’s everyday housing needs. We support a diversity of tactics, including direct action.

Network: The network is a horizontal association; a “group of groups”. We connect and cooperate with each other, across tenure, within and beyond our local neighbourhoods.