Now Tower Hamlets Mayor joins Bishop to challenge government Housing Bill

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

Mayor John Biggs has thrown the gauntlet down today over government housing legislation going through Parliament he says will increase the crisis in London’s East End which is already one of the worst in Britain.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

He is backing the outspoken Bishop of Stepney who last month called for the Prime Minister to back down over social housing for poorer families.

The mayor has set out plans for Tower Hamlets council’s own strategy to minimise the impact of the legislation.

“The Bill presents a real threat to the community, not just social housing tenants,” Mayor Biggs said.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

“We have to take a stand and launch our own strategy for practical solutions on how we can reduce the impact of this harmful legislation which only makes the housing crisis worse.”

It follows a wave of protest in the community led by Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman, whose east London diocese faces some of the country’s worst housing shortages, when he braved the rain to join a ‘sleep out’ protest last month outside Tower Hamlets Council’s homeless unit in Bethnal Green.


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He told the East London Advertiser at the protest: “The Church is concerned about the damage the Bill will cause the community and public housing. The legislation affects social renters, private tenants, everyone across the spectrum, pushing low-income families to the edges of London.”

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

Sister Christine Frost who runs Neighbours in Poplar charity has also attacked the Bill and staged a rally earlier this month in Poplar.

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Now the Mayor, who has pledged to build 1,000 new council homes since he took office last June, is looking at ways to help families who are being priced out of renting or buying homes where they grew up.

Mayor Biggs said: “There is much talk about ‘affordable’ housing—but affordable to whom? Many people can’t afford the rents being asked.”

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

The Housing Bill currently working its way through Parliament will force local authorities like Tower Hamlets to sell off council homes to the highest bidder, the mayor points out.

The Bill brings in new fixed-term tenancies up to 10 years for new tenants, replacing permanent security of tenure.

Families would have to move out if a bedroom becomes spare when a child grows up and moves away, while rents would go up if household income exceeds £40,000 a year.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, deputy mayor and cabinet member for Housing, said: “We are keen to develop our own housing strategy and urge residents to make sure that their voices are heard.”

A series of public meetings is being staged in the coming weeks to hear from the public “to ensure the East End remains affordable to live in”.

The authority is now carrying out an online survey of people’s views on the housing bill.

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