LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of people displaced by a fire that killed about 80 people in London in June are still living in hotels or friends’ houses because of a failure by local authorities to rehouse them, the lawmaker representing the area said on Monday.
The 24-storey Grenfell Tower, a social housing block in a deprived area within the wealthy borough of Kensington and Chelsea, was destroyed on June 14 in a blaze that left hundreds bereaved and homeless.
A criminal investigation is under way into the causes of the fire, while a separate public inquiry is also going on to establish whether there were failures in planning, construction, maintenance or other aspects of the tower’s history.
“The council and the government are failing in their duty of care to Grenfell survivors, evacuees and near neighbors every day,” said Emma Dent Coad, a member of parliament from the opposition Labour Party who represents Kensington.
In a report on housing and inequality in the borough, she wrote that most children displaced by the fire were still in emergency accommodation five months later even though it was unlawful to keep them in such accommodation for longer than six weeks.
The Conservative-run local authority, Kensington and Chelsea Council, denied that the slow pace of re-housing people was due to any failure on its part. A spokesman said the process was tailored to the bereaved and going at their own pace.
Of the 206 households from the tower itself and from nearby Grenfell Walk who needed new homes, 28 have moved into permanent homes while 49 have moved into temporary ones, the council said.
It said a total of 178 children were still in emergency accommodation, including living with friends, in hotels or in serviced apartments.
Dent Coad dismissed the suggestion that any of the families were still in emergency accommodation out of choice. She said she had visited many families and they were all desperate to move into a permanent home. The problem, she said, was that they were not being offered suitable homes.
“A lot of people are losing their minds,” Dent Coad said, describing visits to families in cramped hotel rooms where children had nowhere to do their homework and parents broke down in tears when they talked about their situation.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Toby Chopra