Residents in properties with the same cladding at Grenfell Tower are being told to leave their homes so the work can take place. Some are refusing to go
Ever since the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire less than five miles away, Artan Moallim has barely slept a wink in the 16th-floor, one-bedroom Camden apartment he, his wife and three young daughters call home.
Yet they were still unprepared for the knock on their door at 2am on Saturday morning ahead of the evacuation of thousands of people from five high-rise tower blocks on north London’s Chalcots Estate, and like many others he was still asking questions later in the day outside the community centre where households were being told to register.
Working as a junior psychiatrist, I saw first-hand how policies that fail to protect the disadvantaged lead to ill-health, stress and reduced life expectancy
A tragedy as gut-wrenching as Grenfell Tower has scarcely been seen during peace time in the UK. The negligence and cruelty of the decisions that caused it have sparked justifiable outrage. Concerns raised by residents were ignored and there are allegations that dangerous materials were used to cut costs and make the building look nice for the rich folk. People understandably take to the streets to protest and seek justice.
Related: The Grenfell Tower tragedy should see off austerity. But don’t hold your breath | Patrick Butler
Poverty is a cause and consequence of accidents and ill-health
As affordable housing in Britain’s capital is replaced by luxury towers, people on middle incomes are being priced out, while the poor are forced to pay extortionate rents for shocking conditions
The first time I met Ian Dick, the head of private housing at Newham council in east London, he took me on a walk to look for “beds in sheds”. It was 2011, and alongside criminal levels of overcrowding in private rental properties, there was a growing problem of people living in illegal structures in back gardens. It was not uncommon to find 10 or 20 people living in a room above a fried chicken shop, in a basement, or in ramshackle outbuildings. When we met again, five years later, he was happy to talk to me, not because these problems had disappeared, but because he was proud of the council’s private rented sector licensing regime. Introduced in 2013, it was the first such scheme in the country and had led to 800 prosecutions and 28 landlords being banned from renting property to tenants.
This time we met in Forest Gate, traditionally one of the most deprived parts of Newham. “This is an area undergoing the most dramatic change – the council doesn’t use the term ‘gentrification’, they use the term ‘regeneration’,” he said as we strolled down a pleasant high street in the sunshine, looking up at Victorian facades renovated by the council. Along the road, hipster cafes and pubs were interspersed with clothing retailers, halal butchers and phone shops. To show me the reality in some of the flats above, he took me around the back, where an entire street was accessed by a badly maintained private alleyway, with a huge pile of mattresses dumped at one end.
We paused to look at the ‘to let’ signs in the newsagents. One offered a room share for four people for £160 a month
Related: Stop spending money on avocados? Good idea, I’ll have a house deposit by 2117 | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
There are more requirements to run a cattery than to rent out a home