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High rise living after Grenfell

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j2981 (Published 21 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2981
Mental health response to disasters and other critical incidents: Free access to BMJ Best Practice topic
  1. Anna Minton
  1. a.minton{at}uel.ac.uk

Housing is an important contributor to mental wellbeing. Anna Minton argues that well designed and well run high rise buildings still have a role in providing stability for people in social housing

“We need a piece on the housing apartheid in London, how London’s poor end up living in death trap towers.” This message from the Evening Standard landed in my inbox at 8 am last Wednesday while the Grenfell Tower fire was still burning. They wanted the piece by 9 30 am.

Alarm bells rang, and not only because it felt unlikely that I could write anything informed in such a short space of time. It was also obvious that this appalling and preventable tragedy would feed directly into what I’ve come to describe as the “sink estate” narrative—the political rhetoric surrounding the demolition of hundreds of London’s housing estates, which often include a mix of low and high rise housing. Advocates describe this process, which is replacing estates of affordable housing with luxury apartments alongside a small amount of affordable housing, as estate regeneration. Critics condemn it as social cleansing, breaking up lower income communities at a time of acute housing crisis.

The tower blocks themselves, if well maintained, are often liked by residents. At Grenfell …

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