We Need Housing For the People Not For the Rich

Letter and Editorial from the Hackney Gazette

In the Gazette article “Homes Shortage Crisis Claim” (20th October 05) MP Meg Hiller is just making the same points she made in the House of Commons on 15th June. Meg wants to see more “affordable, family-sized homes.” What she doesn’t call for is more council housing.

As a newcomer to Hackney affairs, Meg won’t remember this, but we saw estates like Stonebridge and Laburnum being built in Shoreditch by Hackney Council not that long ago. Then the Council told us that the Tory government had stopped council house building. We have had Tony Blair in power for eight and a half years and still we see no new council housing.

Labour are now as opposed to council housing as the Tories ever were.

When people come to see us at Hackney Independent advice surgeries they ask us to help them get a council flat big enough for their family. They never ask for “affordable homes” or “shared ownership.” These schemes are only available to people who are in secure well-paid jobs.

Hackney Independent carried out a door-to-door survey of 100 people in Shoreditch. We asked if people would like to see more council housing and more private housing built in Shoreditch.

Eight out of ten wanted to see more council housing. No-one said only private housing. Most of those who thought we needed both agreed that council housing was more important. While Meg puts out press releases calling for “affordable housing” her own party is busy approving plans for more and more luxury flats in Shoreditch, while trying to sell off as many council estates as it can. You have to judge a party by what is does, not what it says. Labour in Hackney means less council housing and more luxury flats. Hackney Independent campaigns as part of the community to save the council housing we have and to build more council housing for overcrowded tenants and our young people.

Peter Sutton
Hackney Independent

Hackney Gazette editorial

‘Sardines in a Can’

The lives of thousands of the borough’s kids are blighted because they live in overcrowded housing. An estimated 9,000 Hackney families suffer severely cramped conditions in households unsuitable for their size, a shock report by homeless charity, Shelter, has revealed. Many sleep in makeshift beds on dining-room, lounge or hallway floors because of lack of space, or have to share a bedroom with their parents – and in some extreme cases teenagers of the opposite sex are forced to share a bedroom. Lack of privacy places stress on family relationships and affects children’s education because they have nowhere to study or do their homework. It is a consequence of a chronic shortage of family-sized social housing.

In the past 20 years, the country’s public housing stock has contracted by more than a third, in part down to the sell-off of homes under the right-to-buy scheme. In an effort to free-up larger properties, tenants in homes too big for their housing needs are being given incentives to move to smaller council accommodation, but it is just tinkering. Sooner or later, society may have to grasp the nettle and accept the somewhat unpalatable reality that nobody has a God-given right to have as many children as they want when resources are scarce and taxpayers are expected to foot the bill. Until then the government needs to make the cash available to build more family-sized council and housing association homes in the borough and end the misery of overcrowding for good.