The Stream

London’s tower of tragedy

Is the city’s social housing crisis to blame for the Grenfell Tower fire?

The fire that consumed London’s Grenfell Tower, tragically killing at least 79 people, may have dissipated, but it has once again focused attention on the city’s social housing crisis. In recent years, London’s skyrocketing home prices and housing shortage have left residents struggling.

Located in the wealthy Kensington neighbourhood, the 24-storey public housing building and its 600 residents stood in stark contrast to the world around them. It was one of many government-owned buildings that was remodeled under an urban regeneration plan in order to increase the number of units, while making it more appealing to private tenants.  

However, experts have warned that under-investment in social housing has left many buildings unsafe. And critics claim that discrimination played a role in ignoring repeated warnings regarding the lack of safety.

“Grenfell is where they shove all the people who don’t have any choice,” said a resident as he watched his home burn.

The cause of the June 13th fire remains unclear, but safety experts point the finger at the building’s new polyester-coated aluminum façade.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire. The announcement comes as the government is accused of failing to improve fire safety in buildings, like Grenfell Tower, despite warnings.

So as questions mount, what needs to be done to ensure tragedies like Grenfell Tower don’t occur again and who is really to blame?

Joining The Stream: 

Dawn Foster @DawnHFoster
Contributing editor on Housing, The Guardian

Piers Thompson @piersthompson
Housing activist, local resident

Local resident and DJ

Omar Salha @o_salha
Founder and director, Ramadan Tent Project

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