Tower Hamlets Council will use £7m to build 70 new affordable homes, as well as a further £22m to ensure that current council homes meet the Decent Homes Standard, it has revealed.
The investment is intended to increase social housing in the borough and provide homes for some of the 21,000 households on the council’s waiting list, as East London homes become increasingly less affordable.
Construction of the new homes will be funded with money received from Right to Buy receipts as the council works with housing associations to develop affordable homes for residents.
Some residents believe that the money should instead have been used to build more council houses. Chair of campaign group Defend Council Housing, Eileen Short said: “A lot of housing associations aren’t treating housing as a public service. Council housing is built to a higher standard than any other rented housing.”
“What Tower Hamlets needs is genuinely affordable homes at £100 a week or so with secure tenancies, so that families and communities can be stable. We need those kind of homes in their thousands. What the council is talking about is a very small drop in a very big ocean.”
“While some houses are better than no houses, it’s very worrying if our council is dealing in the very thing [housing associations] that are making the problem worse. It’s all about getting the maximum number of homes to generate enough money, while providing the minimum public housing that they can get away with.”
The council say that they will only consider working with housing associations that meet the following standards:
– A good local knowledge of the borough’s housing market;
– Extensive experience in developing affordable housing;
– The finances in place to deliver the scheme; and,
– officially recognised on the HCA list of registered providers.”
The council also said: “The key priority is to deliver – the Council wants to provide new affordable housing as quickly as possible.”
The issue of housing topped the agenda at a recent public meeting with Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, who said: “[Affordable housing] is a noble principle which a lot of people support. Making it work is more challenging. It’s one of the drivers behind our affordability provision. We can get back to the basis of something more affordable.
“We’re going to give some of the [Right to Buy receipt] money to some of the housing associations, the well behaved ones, who will build new houses themselves.”
Tower Hamlets Labour Group have previously criticised the quality of social housing sanctioned by the previous mayor, Lutfur Rahman, with councillor Sirajul Islam saying that he had “sacrificed the quality of work in a cynical political drive for numbers” and that the work was “substandard and being done on the cheap”.
Tower Hamlets delivered the most affordable homes in the country between 2010 and 2015 according to figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government.