Four out of five Grenfell families still need homes, says support group

Almost half of those made homeless by tower block fire face spending Christmas in hotel rooms, according to Grenfell United

Four out of five families made homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire are still looking for homes almost six months after the disaster, and almost half face Christmas in hotel rooms, according to Grenfell United, the support group made up of families who survived the fire.

Out of the 208 households that needed rehousing after the fire, 118 will still be in emergency accommodation or with friends over the holiday period, including 29 families with children. A further 48 households have accepted permanent housing offers, but have not yet moved in and are currently still in temporary homes, Grenfell United said.

Days after the fire the prime minister, Theresa May, promised that families would be rehoused within three weeks. Last month, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) promised that every survivor would have the opportunity to move into a new home before Christmas.

More recently, Alok Sharma, the minister for housing and planning, said it would take RBKC up to 12 months to rehome families.

Only 42 families have moved into new permanent homes, leaving 166 households still in temporary housing.

Shahin Sadafi, chair of Grenfell United, said: “First it was three weeks, then six months. Now they are saying a year. For the survivors and affected families it seems like one broken promise after another.

“We are talking about people who have been through the traumatic events and have lost so much, stuck in hotel rooms and make-do accommodation. No one can even start to rebuild their lives until they are in a place they can call home. It’s not too late to put this right but it needs urgent action now.”

Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, acknowledged that the pace for some had been too slow. “Our priority is to find permanent homes for the 209 households from the tower and [Grenfell] Walk who lost their homes in the fire. All of us sympathise with those who are still living in hotels with their children, especially at Christmas,” she said.

“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.”

Defending the council’s record, she said: “Everyone knows it takes time to buy a house, to exchange, to complete, to paint, to furnish. It also takes time to buy a range of homes that will suit each individual and family’s differing needs.

“But, 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 from the tower and Walk will be rehoused by June 2018.”

The council came under repeated attack on Tuesday night from survivors of the fire in a tense public meeting of the scrutiny committee, the body that oversees the official response to the disaster.

Tiago Alves, a 20-year-old tenant of the 13th floor, told the meeting: “You are trying to eat away at us slowly, slowly, slowly, in an attempt to break us up.”

The deputy council leader and cabinet member for housing, Kim Taylor-Smith, admitted rehousing had been “desperately slow”, but said this was initially due to a lack of houses to offer survivors. The council hoped to acquire 300 houses in time for Christmas, he added.