Bishop of Stepney calls on Prime Minister to back down on Housing Bill

Bishop of Stepney joins Kill the Bill 'sleep out' protest rally in Bethnal Green with NHS activist D

Bishop of Stepney joins Kill the Bill 'sleep out' protest rally in Bethnal Green with NHS activist Dr Anna Livingstone (on his right) - Credit: Archant

The outspoken Bishop of Stepney has urged the Prime Minister to rethink the Government’s Housing Bill now going through Parliament which he says will push poorer families out of London.

Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman

Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman - Credit: Archant

The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, whose east London diocese has some of Britain’s worst housing shortages, braved the rain for a ‘sleep out’ protest against the Bill that will make tenants ‘pay to stay’ as rents soar to match market values.

He joined campaigners outside Tower Hamlets Council’s homeless unit in Bethnal Green on Friday night.

“I am calling on David Cameron to listen to the people,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“The Church is concerned about the damage the Bill will cause the community and public housing.

Sister Christine Frost of Neighbours In Poplar

Sister Christine Frost of Neighbours In Poplar - Credit: Archant

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“It is potentially the biggest issue in the country, but seems to have slipped below the radar and without the public having a chance to realise what the implications are, especially for social housing.

“It affects social renters, private tenants, everyone across the spectrum, pushing low-income families to the edges of London.”

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Mr Newman is also urging the bishops who sit in the Lords to “stand up and be a voice for those who are not heard around Westminster”.

Households with an income of £43,000 will have rents raised to market levels if they want to stay in council or social housing. It would push tens of thousands of average-wage families out of central London for a start, campaigners predict.

Housing campaigner handing out leaflet in 'sleep out' porotest in Roman Road

Housing campaigner handing out leaflet in 'sleep out' porotest in Roman Road - Credit: Archant

The Bill also means social properties going on the open market when sitting tenants move out, reducing the pool available.

These properties would be snapped up by buy-to-let landlords taking in short-term renters without any regulation, say campaigners.

Among speakers at Friday’s protest in Roman Road, one of many similar rallies up and down the country, was Sister Christine Frost whose Neighbours In Poplar charity campaigns for social welfare in the East End. She stages her own rally against the Bill next month.

“There won’t be a community left if this Bill is passed,” she said. “Most families in Poplar are on low incomes and will be pushed out of London as rents go up.

“The ‘right to buy’ scheme has already led to housing being sold off to landlords renting them out on short-term contracts without rent controls.

“My neighbours pay £1,600 a month for a two-bed flat on the Will Crooks estate because it’s so close to Canary Wharf.”

Many of the former council flats on the estate would be sold off at £1 million each on the open market if the Bill goes through, she believes.

Her public meeting is being held at St Mathias community centre in Poplar High Street on May 5.

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