June 16 (UPI) — After a high-rise apartment building fire killed at least 17 people and displaced hundreds more in a poor area of London, Britain’s Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has a plan: Use the empty homes of rich people to house the homeless.
“Kensington is a tale of two cities,” Corbyn said, referring to the neighborhood where the Grenfell Tower is located. “The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country.”
He continued: “The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found — requisitioned if necessary — to make sure those residents do get re-housed locally.”
More than 20,000 residences have been left empty by their owners for more than six months, according to a 2016 report by the Guardian. Many of these residences are owned by wealthy people abroad who buy London property for investment or residency purposes, but don’t actually live in the property.
According to the Independent, 1,399 empty properties are within a close radius of Grenfell Tower.
Real estate agent Richard Barber said 54 percent of his company’s sales were to buyers from overseas, who prefer ritzy residences.
“Supply is at a much higher rate per foot than the ordinary man in the street can afford. Homes are being built at very high luxury levels on expensive land,” he told the Telegraph. “A nurse is not going to be able to buy a property in Chelsea or Kensington, and the fact a foreigner can buy it is not going to make the difference.”
The rising cost of rent in London has led to an affordable housing crisis in the city — a problem Corbyn has promised his Labour Party will address during the recent British election. And with the Grenfell Tower fire, the situation is even more urgent.
“It can’t be acceptable that in London we have luxury buildings and luxury flats left empty as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live. We have to address these issues,” Corbyn said.