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Social Housing Speed Read – Update on Grenfell: the rehousing situation for the victims of the fire

Over 100 families, including children, left homeless by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower will have to spend Christmas in hotel rooms and temporary accommodation despite pledges for urgent action to rehouse them quicker. The position is similar for people who occupied the surrounding properties of the Grenfell Tower.

What is the current situation for the families that survived Grenfell?

Over 100 families are still in temporary accommodation, despite promises from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to have the majority rehomed before Christmas and promises from the Prime Minister to have everyone rehomed within three weeks of the tragedy itself.

Only 42 out of 209 displaced families have been rehomed into permanent accommodation. 41 families have accepted housing offers but have not yet moved in. RBKC figures reveal that 34 of the families still in hotel rooms have children.

Chairman of Grenfell United, Shahin Sadafi, said “first it was three weeks, then six months now they are saying a year […] it seems like one broken promise after another. At this rate it could take the council almost two years to re-home people […] no one can start to rebuild their lives until they are in a place they can call home.”

There is also a critical situation with the collective mental health of the families who have lived through and survived the tragedy, which is being further exacerbated by the failure to efficiently rehome them.

What are the authorities doing to tackle the situation?

At a local level, the RBKC have not taken the urgent action needed to re-home the displaced families. For example, Conservative councillors rejected the option of exercising compulsory purchase powers to house the families in empty homes and RBKC were slow to draw on their reserves to fund the rehousing costs.

According to the Council, the number of families in need of rehousing has grown from 138 to 200 and some generations who were living together in the tower have now requested separate accommodation. Both of these factors, the council say, have contributed to the complication of rehousing the people in need.

The Conservative leader of the Council, Elizabeth Campbell, has said “All of us sympathise with those who are still living in hotels […] I have always said we can only move at the pace at which victims and survivors feel comfortable. No one should be rushed into making such an important decision about where they are going to live. However, I do accept for some the pace is too slow.”

She went on to say that “In the coming months, I expect many more households will move into their new homes. We remain on course, however, to meet our target that everyone will be rehoused by June 2018.”

What is the position of the neighbouring families in need of rehoming?

Many people from the surrounding properties of Grenfell Tower, known as the Walkways, have also been living in temporary accommodation since June because the boiler that served these houses was destroyed in the fire. The Council are consulting on the suggestion to only offer these households two offers of re housing, compared to the three offers given to people bidding through the common housing register.

An evacuee and representative of residents from the Walkways, Joe Delaney commenting on the councils proposal said that it “demonstrates a lack of compassion about this situation.”

According to the Council, there are 364 households on the walkways with 123 having been evacuated. The Council award points when prioritising people in need of a home and part of the proposal is to appoint the evacuees 900 points for rehousing. Single people with local connections who are on the rehousing list receive 100 points, so this is aimed to ensure evacuees enter the top of the list as a higher priority.

A spokesperson for the Kensington and Chelsea Council has said that they are “spending millions of pounds on refurbishing the Lancaster West Estate so that a third of residents from the Walkways who are living in hotels can move back to their homes for Christmas”.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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