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‘Unlock cash for social housing’ Tower Hamlets mayor urges prime minister Theresa May

PUBLISHED: 09:34 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:05 27 February 2018

Mayor John Biggs (second from left) visiting construction site in Limehouse at start of work on 33 dwellings in Tower Hamlets Council's '1,000 new homes' programme. Picture: Kois Miah

Mayor John Biggs (second from left) visiting construction site in Limehouse at start of work on 33 dwellings in Tower Hamlets Council's '1,000 new homes' programme. Picture: Kois Miah

Kois Miah 07903656411 mail@koism

A new social house-building era has been ignited by Tower Hamlets Council to fill a chronic shortage and cut the desperate waiting list.

Hard-hat mayor Biggs...  calling on Prime Minister to unlock social housing funds Hard-hat mayor Biggs... calling on Prime Minister to unlock social housing funds "because people can’t afford to live in London any more". Picture: Kois Miah

The move to tackle the waiting list with 19,000 families in the queue to be housed began in earnest yesterday with construction kicking off on 33 new homes at the Locksley Estate in Limehouse.

It is the first stage in a pledge to build 1,000 new homes in the face of a government cap on town hall borrowing for social housing.

“We need to get back to council house building because people can’t afford to live in London any more,” mayor John Biggs told the East London Advertiser.

“Our problem is the funds local authorities can raise for social housing because the government has ‘capped’ how much we can borrow. There isn’t enough cash in public housing.”

Now the council is urging the prime minister to step in to end the chronic shortage.

“Theresa May needs to unblock the system for affordable homes,” the mayor insists.

“The private market can’t provide enough, so the government needs to listen and act.

“It’s a national crisis—in London, it’s a nightmare.”

Selling off public housing for private ownership has reduced the stock of social properties by half on the past decade alone, with working families being priced out of the area.

“Cleaning staff have to travel in from Dagenham and Essex to work here,” Mr Biggs pointed out. “London is turning inside out with working families having to move out to the suburbs and former inner-city areas being taken over by private market forces—that’s nutty.”

The local authority is calling for more borrowing powers to raise funds for low-cost housing and to buy properties privately for council tenants in mixed developments through grants.

The 33 homes being built in Rhodeswell Road at the Locksley Estate site, part of a complex of 77 council properties planned, will be ready in two years. Two other council schemes are also starting this year for 24 homes at Jubilee Street in Stepney and 20 at Baroness Road in Bethnal Green.

Planning levies on private developers are also being used for new schemes to include social housing and to raise funds for the council’s own building programme to meet needs of the growing population now passing 300,000.

It is a “balancing act” between ‘right to buy’ to get on the property ladder and providing for working families waiting to be housed.

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