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Photo via ChiralJon/Flickr (CC-BY)
From the streets to £1.6 billion apartments.
Survivors of the massive Grenfell Tower fire will be rehoused in a luxury apartment complex in Kensington, England, it was announced Wednesday.
The city council’s handling of the fire, which blazed for nearly 24 hours and left 79 dead and many more homeless, has been heavily criticized, as some were forced to sleep in cars or on the street.
Now, a week later, the government has purchased 68 apartments in the Kensington complex, where prices for private homes start at £1.6 billion pounds, or about $2 billion. The “newly built social housing” for survivors, which will be fully furnished, is scheduled to be completed by end of July, according to a statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
“Our priority is to get everyone who has lost their home permanently rehoused locally as soon as possible, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives,” Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said.
Following the fire, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for expensive properties to be “requisitioned” for the survivors to fulfill the government’s promise to rehouse them locally.
“Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country,” Corbyn said. “The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country.”
The Evening Standard reported that the Homes and Communities Agency made the deal on behalf of the government, and the City of London Corporation paid around £10 million for the apartments at cost price “thanks to an ‘extraordinary gesture’” by developer St. Edward.
“The residents of Grenfell Tower have been through some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable and it is our duty to support them,” Javid said.
The Kensington complex includes a private cinema, swimming pool, and a 24-hour concierge, but it’s unknown if the survivors will have access to these accommodations.
In its statement, the Department for Communities and Local Government said it is working to “fast-track” the completion of the apartments.
“The government will continue to do everything we can as fast as we can to support those affected by this terrible tragedy,” Javid said.
Kris Seavers is the Evening Editor for the Daily Dot, where she covers breaking news, politics, and LGBTQ issues. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.