Grenfell Charter is Inevitable

People get ready! Rebuild Social Housing Policy and Failed Urban regimes

By Thomas L Blair 20 December 2017© rev 21/12/17

The archbishop of York John Sentamu, right, and Father Georgia Dimtsu of St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church
The archbishop of York John Sentamu, right, and Father Georgia Dimtsu of St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church

Silent in sorrow, but determined in purpose, a generation of men and women marched their way into history. Banners for the Grenfell memorial services hurled their thunderbolt demands – Justice for Grenfell. United We Stand!—for a culture of community action.

Beacon for Justice
The grim faced Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of  York warned that “no stone be left unturned in the social inquiry and police investigation”. He said  “It will take two important actions to change the tragedy to victory as most of the survivors want”,

  • No reconciliation without truth and justice.
  • Turn anger into a creative force for change

Beyond Horror, Hope Rises for London’s social housing tenants
Righteous anger, demonstrations, slogans and preaching to the choir of believers can all have meaningful consequences.

On Dec. 14, thousands of residents in the London community of Kensington took to the streets to commemorate the lives lost in the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire.

Earlier with John Sentamu, Father Georgia Dimtsu of St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church spoke of the “big loss to the Ethiopian community”  — “It is terrifying, it’s tragic,” he said.

The Gospel for Grenfell choir sang a version of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the song that has become an anthem to the victims of the fire and the north Kensington community.

Indeed, Grenfell campaigners have created a Petition for Families Bereaved through Social Tragedy.

However, the main point is – only sustained political action can harness the power of peaceful protest
Residents can press harder for a proper voice in the issues that affect them. Campaigners for  tenants’ rights can rally round Mayor Sadiq Khan’s new London Plan.  Collectively, they can demand social housing reform. They can demand that estate regeneration projects like Grenfell must replace homes based on social rent levels on a like-for-like basis.

Is that enough to bring about serious changes in The Poverty of Planning social housing?
It is hard to say. Clearly, survivors and supporters  seek direct representation  in the public inquiry. Much more than the offered place on a “consultative panel”.  A token that hardly promotes a “sense of engagement”. Furthermore, it does not allow for a full-throated challenge to miscreant borough politicians and social housing managers.

Yet, the platform for a small-group movement is birthing. Organisers are focusing on the larger issue – the misrule of the social housing system. Hundreds of people regularly pack public galleries at council meetings. Thousands march for housing “fit for purpose”. People are engaging confidently with social housing stakeholders.

Together, tenants in all the stricken Grenfell’s have a unique advantage. “Who feels it, knows it”.  United in creed, ethnicity, circumstance, colour and tenancy status,  they can  affirm their legitimate aspirational rights. Their historic task is to create the Grenfell Charter for social housing for the 21st century – socially inclusive, safe and affordable.

 Author’s Profile:
Professor Thomas L Blair, MA, PhD writes on city planning and social change. His authored books include The International Urban Crisis and Strengthening Urban Management.

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What the politicians and researchers are saying

 Notes and sources:
For principal Grenfell organisations, Twitter #grenfell.

Theresa May

Dame Judith Hackitt.

Story photo by The Guardian