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Archbishop's Housing Commission visits borough 'to see the reality' of national housing crisis

PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 August 2019

Commissioners at the Didsbury Centre building site with councillors John Gray and Shaban Mohammed and East Ham MP Stephen Timms. Picture: Naomi Grant.

Commissioners at the Didsbury Centre building site with councillors John Gray and Shaban Mohammed and East Ham MP Stephen Timms. Picture: Naomi Grant.

Archant

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Housing, Church and Community has visited the borough to see firsthand the reality of the national housing crisis.

Members of organisations, churches and charities with the commissioners and East Ham MP Stephen Timms at Bonny Downs Community Association after the roundtable meeting. Picture: Naomi Grant.Members of organisations, churches and charities with the commissioners and East Ham MP Stephen Timms at Bonny Downs Community Association after the roundtable meeting. Picture: Naomi Grant.

The study visit was part of an 18-month project aiming to understand the nature of the housing crisis across the country, highlight areas of action for the Church of England and make policy recommendations for government.

Newham is ranked as England's number one homelessness hotspot, with at least one in 24 people in housing insecurity - including more than 4,200 households in temporary accommodation.

Hosted by East Ham MP Stephen Timms, commissioners visited residents experiencing serious housing issues, including overcrowding, damp and rat infestations, and the prospect of eviction in the private rented sector.

They took part in a round table discussion with organisations, churches and charities working on housing and homelessness.

The commissioners also visited the Didsbury Centre site being developed by the council-owned Red Door Ventures, and met with councillors about their plans to address the borough's challenges.

Commission chairman Charlie Arbuthnot said: "We are determined to get behind the statistics and theories to see the reality of the housing crisis firsthand and to do all we can to find solutions.

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"In Newham, we were deeply concerned to see the cramped and damp flats families we met were living in.

"We were also so encouraged to hear from churches and community groups who shared the grassroots solutions they are working towards, as well as hearing about what the council and developers are doing at a policy level."

The borough has more than 27,000 people on its social housing waiting list.

Mr Timms said housing issues "make up an enormous part" of his constituency caseload.

"Newham is at the very sharp end of London's housing crisis," he said.

"I was glad to be able to host the commission to highlight those realities, as well as the enormous hope, innovation and potential in our borough.

"I am hopeful about the commission's efforts to re-imagine housing policy towards building homes and well-functioning communities."

Four commissioners - Mr Arbuthnot, former Department for Work and Pensions permanent secretary Sir Robert Devereux, National Estate Churches Network vice-chairwoman Reverend Lynne Cullens and theologian Stephen Backhouse - took part in the visit.

The commission is due to report in autumn 2020.

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