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5 Months After Grenfell Blaze, 320 Households Are Still In Emergency Housing

A task force found that hundreds of households are still living in emergency housing five months after the fire at London's Grenfell Tower.
Frank Augstein
A task force found that hundreds of households are still living in emergency housing five months after the fire at London's Grenfell Tower.

On June 14, a fire tore through Grenfell Tower in London, killing about 80 people.

After the fire, residents of Grenfell and neighboring apartment buildings moved into temporary housing. Nearly five months later, many of them are still living in emergency accommodations.

A new report by the Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, an independent group set up to monitor how the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is responding to the disaster, found that rehousing "remains a substantial and immediate challenge."

Among its findings: 320 households from the tower and neighboring buildings are still living in hotels.

The report shows the complicated nature of rehousing so many people at one time, especially in a way that is sensitive to the needs of different households.

"Whilst the rehousing challenge is undoubtedly a difficult process and RBKC has offered a number of enhancements to the 'business as usual' allocations policy, it now appears to have created a pipeline of demand in which the ultimate outcome (permanent rehousing) is happening at a painfully slow pace," the report says. "Clearly those made homeless by the fire should not be forced in any way to move to anything other than a home of their choice with which they are satisfied. However RBKC needs to inject pace into the delivery of sensitive housing outcomes."

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, who announced the task force in July, said "there are green shoots" in the recovery but significant room for improvement.

"The scale and impact of the fire was unprecedented in recent history, but RBKC is relying too much on tried and tested solutions that are not up to the task," he said in Parliament. "The council should be much bolder in its response."

Andrew Gwynne, Labour's shadow communities minister, toldThe Guardianthat Javid had painted a too-rosy picture of things, and that 227 children were among those who needed rehousing.

"For many survivors, things are far more bleak than the picture painted by the secretary of state," Gwynne said. He also pointed to England's law that households with children can only stay in emergency housing for a maximum of six weeks.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is calling on the government's chief finance minister to commit 1 billion pounds to pay for retrofitting high-rise social housing with sprinklers, The Guardian reports.

The paper reports that former residents fear they will be pushed to return to refurbished homes before they are emotionally ready.

One resident who had lived in a nearby building talked to the newspaper about the intensity of returning there: "Out of one window you have the investigations team and on the other side you have the tower."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.