Some London fire survivors to be housed in luxury complex

Thursday | June 22, 2017

Kensington Row, the luxury housing complex which will house some of the London fire survivors, is 2.4km south of Grenfell Tower, the site of the June 14 fire which killed at least 79 people.PHOTO: REUTERS


LONDON • After nearly a week of being shuttled among community centres, hotels and vacant properties, weary survivors of London’s worst fire in decades have learnt that some of them will be housed in a luxury complex where some apartments go for more than £8.5 million (S$15 million).

In an announcement that startled some survivors, the government said it would acquire 68 units – ranging in size from one to three bedrooms – to permanently house some of the displaced families.

The units are in a complex that is about 2.4km south of Grenfell Tower – the 1974 building that was incinerated early on the morning of June 14, killing at least 79 people – but there is a social and economic chasm between the buildings.

Immigrants from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and other poor and troubled countries, many of them refugees and making the minimum wage, were crowded into subdivided apartments in Grenfell Tower.

In contrast, the housing complex, Kensington Row, has large spacious apartments with modern, luxurious finishes and a range of amenities, including a 24-hour concierge, swimming pool, spa and private cinema. The multi-tower complex is worth £2 billion.

The local council, which oversees the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, owns Grenfell Tower. It received harsh criticism for what critics say was a slow and ineffective response to the emergency.
Angry residents marched on the borough’s Town Hall last Friday and, on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government seized control of the disaster response, sidelining the borough’s officials.

The new apartments will be bought and managed by the Corporation of the City of London, the capital’s financial district. It was not immediately clear why the City of London was paying for the new apartments, or what price will be paid.

All of the apartments “will be fully furnished and completed to a high specification”, and liaison staff will be provided “so that residents are fully supported in settling into their new homes”, the Department for Communities and Local Government said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the Grenfell residents would be given access to all of the amenities in the building.

Grenfell Tower had a mixture of owners, renters and sub-tenants. A tenant activist group, the Radical Housing Network, said on Wednesday that it was awaiting details of who would be eligible to live in the new homes.

Some of the survivors are also worried about the social dynamics in their relocation, wondering whether they would be kept out of sight of the wealthier tenants in the buildings they move to.



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