Opinion: Newham at sharp end of housing crisis

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, want everyone to have a place they can call a home.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, want everyone to have a place they can call a home. - Credit: Archant

What is important to you about home?

This is the question that began the roundtable I hosted last week with grassroots organisations, charities and churches, on the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Housing Commission to Newham.

The answers were moving.

Security. Safety. Love. A place where you can cook, and laugh, and dance; where you belong, and from which you help others to belong.

A place within a community.

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Throughout the day, the commission heard from people for whom home means stress, insecurity, and even harm.

People spoke of severe overcrowding, rat infestations, and problems with damp.

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Of the high rents and insecurity of private renting. Of living in poor quality temporary accommodation with limited legal protections.

It is no secret that Newham is at the very sharp end of London's housing crisis.

One in 25 people is living in housing insecurity. 4,500 families are in temporary accommodation.

There are 27,000 people on the social housing waiting list.

I see the human face of this every week in my constituency surgeries, and it felt important for the Commission to see and hear those grim realities.

But the visit also felt one of hope.

The commission's is focusing not just on building houses but also on well-functioning communities. Newham is good at community.

I was immensely encouraged by how churches and grassroots organisations are providing solutions to the housing crisis in Newham, as well as to hear more about policy innovation from the council.

But there needs to be structural change to resolve the housing crisis, so that everyone has a place they can truly call home. I hope in the commission's reimagining of housing and community in this country, they will be bold, compassionate and imaginative in the recommendations they propose.

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