‘Daddy, please, when are we going to a new home?’: Overcrowding in Newham laid bare
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:29 01 September 2020
There are mornings when Nosakhare Omoijade’s children wake up with bloody noses.
It's not because of sibling rivalry between Stacey, nine, Jason, seven, and five-year old triplets Louise, Zoey and Zara.
It's because they are all crammed into the same bed in the one-bedroom council flat in Manor Park they have to call home.
Squeezed together in their double bed, the children end up hitting each other in their sleep, causing nose bleeds and tears.
Dad, Nosakhare, and mum, Joy Ogbeide, a part time kitchen assistant, sleep on the living room floor.
"It's really, really heartbreaking," 36-year old bus driver, Nosakhare, said. "My daughter said to me once, 'Daddy, please, when are we going to a new home?' I say, 'Don't worry, we will go soon'. She asks, 'Can we go tomorrow?' Sometimes I feel like I want to cry."
Since 2014 the family has been hoping for a bigger home, joining scores of families living in overcrowded accommodation bidding for social homes when they become available.
But Nosakhare said the family has never risen above 300 in the queue.
Desparate for help, the family has exhausted efforts to change their circumstances.
Nosakhare saw East Ham MP Stephen Timms, who raised their situation with Newham Council.
It chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry's responded in April 2016, expressing regret that he could not see when the family would be made an offer of social housing.
An NHS health visitor raised concerns that the children's "irregular sleeping patterns" have a "negative impact" on their behaviour in a letter sent to the council in May 2016.
Stacey and Jason have nowhere private to do their homework and the triplets "do not have the space needed to play and explore", the letter states.
The council concluded health problems - including infections and breathing difficulties - were not a result of the flat's disrepair or overcrowding, prompting the family's parish priest to contact Newham in July 2016. He urged the local authority to "urgently review" their "unacceptable situation".
Stacey went as far as hand delivering a letter to Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, to explain how her learning was being affected.
The six year long wait has left Nosakhare and Joy wondering whether their application would succeed more if she was a single mum.
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Sadly, the family's situation is not exceptional in Newham where hundreds of families wait for homes. The average wait for a three bedroom property is 13-years.
Jason would be celebrating his 21st birthday by the time the family got a four bed home with the average 14-year wait.
There are just over 27,600 on the waiting list. A total of 5,300 families in temporary accommodation.
Newham's deputy mayor, Cllr John Gray, responsible for housing, said: "If I could get the homes to house these families I would, but they simply aren't there. We have hundreds of families with similar levels of overcrowding. It's unacceptable. We are doing everything we can, we're on their side, but we need help from the government."
A former Tower Hamlets housing officer, Cllr Gray called for changes to the right to buy scheme, to caps on housing benefit and for subsidies.
In the last eight years, Newham has lost 1,800 homes under right to buy, where longstanding local authority tenants buy their homes at a discount.
Since its introduction, the borough has lost 10,000 properties. Half those homes are now in the private rented sector.
Newham is now campaigning for changes to right to buy so sales are based on local need and the authority is compensated in full for losses. It aims to build 1,000 social rent homes.
Housing charity Shelter has urged the government to use the next budget to urgently invest in good quality, genuinely affordable social homes.
Shelter chief executive, Polly Neate, said: "Thousands of families with children are living in impossibly cramped conditions because of the dire shortage of social homes.
"We see shocking cases of overcrowding in both private and social renting at Shelter, from parents forced to sleep in the kitchen, to entire families living out of just one room in a shared house.
"A lack of space has a damaging effect on children of all ages, whether it's a toddler who doesn't have room to crawl or a teenager who has nowhere to do homework or study for exams in peace." She added that every child needs the foundation of a safe, decent home to help get the best start in life.
A spokesman from the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: "Last year we delivered more homes than any year in the last 30 years and have committed to delivering a million more in this parliament.
"Since 2010 we've delivered 430,000 affordable homes [in the UK]. There has also been a rise of 79,000 in the [UK] stock of social housing between 2010 and 2018, helping to decrease the waiting list by 40pc, ensuring more families have access to safe and secure housing."
The government has also made £9billion available through its affordable homes programme to March 2022 to build 250,000 new affordable homes.
A total of 26,185 council homes were built in the UK between 2010/11 and 2018/19, up from 2,994 over the previous 13 years.
But for Nosakhare and his family, change can't come soon enough.
"We feel abandoned and forgotten," he said.
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