The devastating, heart-breaking Grenfell Tower fire happened almost four years ago. The Tower’s residents had raised concerns about defective cladding for years and were ignored. When fire broke out, by the time it was controlled 72 people had tragically lost their lives.
That fire was preventable and is a shameful episode in our history.
Four years on, 11 million British people still live in buildings at serious fire risk. It is totally unacceptable.
For those living in these buildings, there are severe consequences.
Families live in constant fear, even though safety features are being installed, retrospectively, at great costs. Many blocks employ companies to provide a ‘waking watch,’ patrolling buildings 24/7, acting as ‘human’ alarm systems. This costs thousands of pounds a month, costs borne by residents, who bear no responsibility for the fire safety problems. Some buildings require extensive re-modelling, to make them safe, which is eye-wateringly expensive.
Residents did not create these problems and weren’t made aware of them when they bought their homes. Everyone will be hit hard. For many these bills are simply unmanageable.
West Ham residents caught in this trap cannot move home. They can’t sell, because no-one offers mortgages against properties that might be unsafe. They want to start a family, or divorce, or downsize for financial reasons; but they are stuck and costs continue to mount. It is a living nightmare.
That it’s happening during a pandemic only compounds the problem. The Government have a responsibility to sort it out. Government must hold developers and builders to account for the crises they created and ensure housing associations, insurers and mortgage providers are sensitive to the dire needs of affected residents. Government must ensure no-one profiteers from this crisis.
I have written to the Government several times and spoken in Parliament about these awful difficulties.
I’ll continue pushing for rapid measures to make buildings safe and to shield residents with no responsibility for creating these problems from having to pay to make them right. I hope the Government will speedily provide fair and equitable solutions, for our friends and neighbours living under intolerable strain.