Under 50s and ‘non-priorities’ to stay on Tower Hamlets’ housing list after mayor makes U-turn

Mayor backs down on axing 'non priority' housing applicants from Tower Hamlets waiting list. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor backs down on axing 'non priority' housing applicants from Tower Hamlets waiting list. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Campaigners and renters have won a victory and stopped Tower Hamlets Council cutting them from the housing waiting list.

Mayor John Biggs' online cabinet meeting... "We have a massive housing crisis, but have to recognise people's desires." Pictu...

Mayor John Biggs' online cabinet meeting... "We have a massive housing crisis, but have to recognise people's desires." Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

The mayor made a U-turn at last night’s cabinet meeting and is letting people remain on Band-3 who don’t have priority needs.

He also changed his mind about excluding people under 50 from the list.

People with family connections in the East End who have had to move away because of the housing shortage are also being allowed to remain for three years, even if they no longer live in Tower Hamlets.

“We have a massive housing crisis,” mayor John Biggs told the cabinet. “But we have to recognise people’s desires. It’s appalling that people wait over a decade for housing.”


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There was public outcry over anyone under 50 being removed from the register when it was first mooted last year. The thinking was that “expectation of housing” couldn’t be fulfilled, the mayor acknowledged.

“I am happy to reinstate ‘social tenant’ status for those under 50,” he pledged. “But we don’t want to create false expectations as the likelihood for housing is very small.”

Cllr John King... "There are many reasons why people want to be on the list, so it is important these opportunities remain." ...

Cllr John King... "There are many reasons why people want to be on the list, so it is important these opportunities remain." Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

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It follows a campaign of lobbying by renters who claim a right to social housing “even if the supply runs out”.

The mayor had also come under pressure from the council’s own scrutiny committee which keeps check on his executive decisions.

The committee’s chair, Cllr James King, told the East London Advertiser: “The mayor has listened and agreed with us. We were concerned that removing parts of Band 3 and a time limit on housing options list for those housed outside the borough would remove hope for applicants. There are many reasons why people want to be on the list, so it’s important these opportunities remain.”

The public consultation response was against these proposals, Cllr King pointed out.

Campaigners have also stopped a dubious practice by some local authorities of pushing people into rented places outside their borough as a temporary measure—then saying they were no longer their residents.

“We’ve stopped Tower Hamlets doing that,” Cllr King added. “Some authorities offered the ‘carrot’ of accommodation elsewhere, then declaring they were no longer qualified for housing.”

Council housing shortage forces many to move out of East End and rent privately. Picture: Renters' campaign

Council housing shortage forces many to move out of East End and rent privately. Picture: Renters' campaign - Credit: Renters' campaign

A three-year out-of-borough link has been retained to help relieve the demand where the council offers help to find private accommodation. People in this Band-3 can remain for three years on the list, even though the have had to move out.

The mayor admitted: “On balance, it’s worth us keeping that as the likelihood of being rehoused (within three years) is quite low. So I think we can keep that.”

There are 20,000 families on the waiting list. Some people “fade away from the queue because they get tired of waiting”, the mayor added.

But at least the controversial move to force “non-priority” people off the list has been revoked.

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