British prime minister Teresa May said on Wednesday that the tenants management organisation responsible for the Grenfell Estate, where a violent tower fire killed at least 80 people in June, will be stripped of their responsibilities. Why? Turns out they have done a terrible job managing the aftermath of that disaster. In fact, it sounds like the past two months have been an absolute nightmare for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower.
Earlier this week, the Kensington council that’s been overseeing the tenants management organisation drew ire when it announced that survivors would have to “bid” against each other in order to secure new housing. This method would effectively force the former Grenfell Tower residents to compete with each other for the best accommodations. This, after over 180 of the survivors have been living in hotels or emergency housing for the past few months. The Independent explains how the bidding process will work:
[The Kensington council] are using a ranking system that allows certain residents priority, including those who lost family in the fire or have a disability. Families with children will also receive higher priority status than those without.
Survivors in the same eligibility band who bid for the same property will be given priority based on how long they had lived in Grenfell Tower. The council also made clear that properties will only be viewed by one household at a time.
While some aspects of the prioritisation seem fair, residents and lawmakers argue that the whole process forces survivors into yet another stressful situation, after many of them either lost family members or watched their neighbours die. Residents also told The Independent that some survivors, especially the elderly, don’t understand how the process works or how they’re supposed to submit their bids. And again, the very idea that multiple survivors could be competing with each other for a particular housing option is just bad and wrong, they say.
“What we’re expecting is for the council to know how many properties they have, categorise those, [and get survivors] to view them,” one woman who escaped the Grenfell Tower fire told the paper. “The bidding process is too strenuous and time consuming. It’s causing unrest between the survivors.”
An alternative that’s been suggested is for the council to simply assign new accommodations. That way, the survivors could get new homes more quickly and without the stress of competing with their neighbours. The Kensington council, meanwhile, claims that the bidding process is the “fairest and quickest” method. Then again, according to the prime minister, the Kensington council has been doing a dreadful job handling everything in the wake of the deadly blaze. Why should residents trust them now?
The important thing, everyone agrees, is to help the survivors find new homes as quickly as possible. Some of them might even end up in luxury condominiums, if they manage to do well during the bidding process. (Not everyone loves this idea, by the way.) Now that the Kensington council’s tenant management organisation is on the way, however, who knows if any of this will change. At least it sounds like things couldn’t get any worse. Let’s just hope they get better.