Housing protest at Shadwell's Watney Market over service charges hike
- Credit: Hussain Ismail
A mass protest has taking place by tenants and leaseholders over service charges for thousands of homes on estates across the East End.
Protesters gathered at 2pm at Watney Market in Shadwell outside one of the main housing bodies, Tower Hamlets Community Housing.
A campaign group has been set up calling for “justice” for tenants and leaseholders over complaints from families on estates run by both Tower Hamlets Homes and Tower Hamlets Community Housing.
“Service charges are driving people into despair,” campaign co-ordinator Hussain Ismail told the East London Advertiser. “The charges are pushing them into abject poverty.
“Increases are of up to 110 per cent for a few people, which means £1,200 for the year.
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“We’ve had enough of being extorted and want a complete withdrawal of these increases.”
The campaigners complain that the hikes have made things worse in the pandemic year with “the devastation of 504 Covid deaths” in Tower Hamlets, many families now depending on foodbanks.
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One 76-year-old leaseholder who has lived on Shadwell’s Tarling Estate for 50 years said: “They're taking our money and not doing the job. I keep ringing and they do nothing—a complete waste of time!”
The families blame the “lack of affordable housing driving people out of the East End” and now “hyped service charges making this worse”.
Some items on the service charges have been removed which should not have been made, Tower Hamlets Community Housing has told the Advertiser. This follows consultations with tenants and residents.
Around 40 per cent of tenants have actually had reduction in service bills, while others including leaseholders have had increases at various rates to cover items “not previously charged for”.
Chief executive Philip Sullivan said in a statement to the paper: “We recognise that the last year has been tough for lots of people and are keen to support those who need assistance as much as possible. We will do what we can where any are struggling financially.
“Our rent levels are low compared (to other housing organisations). We don’t make profit on service charges, but do need to try and recover reasonable costs.”
Around £3.3m was spent on fire safety on its estates during the Lockdown financial year and an average of £2,857 for each home "on major repairs and improvements".