Socialist Worker

Kensington and Chelsea, where the super-rich live in luxury and the poor live in death traps

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2559

Gigantic posh flats in One Hyde Park lie empty while Kensington and Chelseas poor live in unsafe housing such as Grenfell Tower

Gigantic posh flats in One Hyde Park lie empty while Kensington and Chelsea's poor live in unsafe housing such as Grenfell Tower (Pic: Rob Deutscher/Creative Commons)


The borough where working class residents of Grenfell Tower were left to live in shoddy, unsafe housing is awash with wealth and empty homes.

Kensington and Chelsea has 1,399 homes left idle by rich owners, according to research last year by asset management firm Property Partner.

That’s more than any other London borough. Their total value is estimated at £664 million.

The One Hyde Park development in Knightsbridge contains some of the world’s most expensive flats.

Sold for £55 million plus stamp duty and service charges, each one has an area of around 502 square metres. That’s twice the size of a typical swimming pool and ten times the size of a one bedroom flat in Grenfell Tower.

In a city with more billionaires than any in the world, Kensington and Chelsea is the richest borough.

Richest

A survey by European Union (EU) data unit eurostat published in April found Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill the richest areas in the EU. 

Their average GDP in 2015 was 580 percent of the EU average, it found—more than twice that of runner up the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

Parts of the northern half of the borough have been notorious for poverty since the nineteenth century. Yet streets in the south are almost paved with gold and their residents continue to top rich lists.

Billionaire David Graham is among those trying to build a giant basement with a swimming pool beneath his Kensington mansion.

His original plan for a three storey basement complete with ballroom was withdrawn after neighbours objected.

Outpourings of solidarity and anger after Grenfell Tower fire
Outpourings of solidarity and anger after Grenfell Tower fire
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Those neighbours include Gillian Beauclark the Duchess of St Albans and Lady Hayat Palumbo, wife of property kingpin and Tory life peer Baron Peter Palumbo.

The Duke of Westminster owns around 100 acres of the borough’s Belgravia area.

Royal parasites live it up in nearby Kensington Palace. The duke and duchess of Cambridge moved into a 20-room apartment there in 2013 after a £4.5 million renovation.

The housing bosses who ran Grenfell Tower may seem like small fry by comparison.

But the four most senior members of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) took home £650,000 between them last year.

Chief executive Robert Black’s house is worth £1 million.


Corbyn is right to demand rich give up empty flats

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour are right to demand that the rich’s empty homes are seized for the Grenfell survivors.

Even the Times newspaper admitted there was a precedent for this after the Second World War.

What no one mentions is that the state only acted after working class people forced it to.

A mass movement of squatters, led by the Communist Party, took over empty homes.

When police besieged squatters from the Ivanhoe Hotel in Bloomsbury, central London, huge crowds of supporters threw food up to the windows.

This revolt forced the government’s hand.

Today Kensington and Chelsea has 1,399 homes left idle by rich owners. That’s more than any other London borough. Those flats are ripe for the taking.


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