‘Too many face lockdown in the street or overcrowding’ despite 750 Tower Hamlets new homes being built

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:11 19 May 2020

17,000 new low-cost homes completed in London in last 12 months, according to GLA, highest number for 18 years. Picture: London Assembly

17,000 new low-cost homes completed in London in last 12 months, according to GLA, highest number for 18 years. Picture: London Assembly

London Assembly

Government spending on low-cost homes in London has slumped by 90 per cent in a decade with a critical demand now emerging in the shadow of coronavirus, shock figures reveal.

But London Assembly's Unmesh Dessai reckons the government has But London Assembly's Unmesh Dessai reckons the government has "underfunded desperately-needed housing seven times over". Picture: London Assembly

It come in the week the GLA releases figures showing 758 “affordable” homes were started in Tower Hamlets alone, in the past 12 months, among 17,000 across Greater London and the highest number for 18 years.

London Assembly’s Unmesh Dessai, who represents east London at City Hall, is calling for the government to “seize the initiative” after the Coroavirus emergency and put more cash into the GLA’s “affordable housing” schemes.

“The Covid-19 outbreak has thrown our need for more homes into even sharper relief,” he said.

“Too many people have been facing lockdown in overcrowded or temporary accommodation and having to pay exorbitant rents — or even being left out on the streets.

“So I’m urging the government to get to grips with the crisis by seizing the initiative to invest in housing which is underfunded seven times over.”

Nearly a third of newly-started homes announced by the GLA are for social rent, with the rest at other “affordable” rates and tenures.

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But the Moving Home Advice consumer website claims the figures aren’t the real story.

The numbers are split into two, “housing starts” with a shovel in the ground or a piece of signed paperwork, or “completions”of a property that someone can move into, it points out.

Property expert Russell Quirk said: “We’ve heard of the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ making planes and boats disappear. But no one would have guessed affordable London housing also disappears.”

Nearly 52,000 “affordable” properties were started in the four years since 2016, but just 25,600 have been completed, the Moving Home Advice website points out. Only half the “affordable housing” started in the past four years has actually been completed, citing the mayor’s London Plan in his 2016 election promising “35,000 affordable homes a year”.

City Hall puts it down to government funding crashing by 90 per cent since 2011, from £1.24 billion a year between 2008 and 2011 to just £157 million since, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation.

More than 1,500 “affordable homes” are said to have been made ready in Tower Hamlets in the year ending March 31, the highest number in any London borough, along with the 758 started in the same 12-month period including 500 for social rent which is also the highest level in London.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: “We need the government to give us the resources to provide new homes as the coronavirus crisis continues.”

New council and “affordable” housing remained “a top priority”, with the Covid emergency exposing the need to help overcrowded and homeless households.

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