Entry: "Oona King MP fights to end housing misery"

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Baby’s sleeping in cots in baths, 10 people living in two bedrooms, and families waiting twenty years to be rehoused – this is just some of the housing misery in London’s East End. Now, thanks to the persistence of Bethnal Green and Bow MP, Oona King, improvements are on the way.
“In the twenty-first century, nobody should have to live in such appalling conditions”, commented Oona. “And it is a national disgrace that black and Asian families are seven times more likely to be overcrowded than white families”, she added.

The MP has got the Government to agree to a huge cash injection for housing in Tower Hamlets, and to get overcrowding officially recognised. She is confident that these measures will bring long term improvements for her constituents, half of whom are from ethnic minorities.

Oona was unable to reveal exactly how much money is on the way. This is because it is still being worked out how much Government money is needed to bring all homes up to a decent standard. “The Government has said that all homes must be brought up to the new Decent Homes Standard”, explains Oona. “But more money is needed in Tower Hamlets to do this. After a series of meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and the Treasury, it has been agreed to release special additional funds for this area”.

Controversially, the money will be used to get further investment from Housing Associations. MP Oona explains, “There is not enough public money to bring all Tower Hamlets homes up to the Decent Homes Standard. Indeed, some estates actually have a negative value because of all the repairs that need doing. This means a combination of Government grants and money raised by housing associations is needed”. Oona says that this strategy is working nationally, and will work in Tower Hamlets. The Government says it has reduced the number of non-decent homes owned by councils and housing associations in England by 1m – equivalent to the combined populations of Newcastle, Nottingham and Liverpool.

Defend Council Housing – the lobby group trying to get more direct investment in council housing disagrees. They say the money would be better handed over to local councils directly. Leaseholders are also concerned, because they will be required to pay a share of improvements to communal areas of blocks and estates.

Meanwhile, tenants welcomed Oona’s announcement. Mrs A Begum, whose family of seven share 2 bedrooms, said, “I couldn’t believe that my family was not officially recognised as overcrowded. Now it will be, and I think this will force the Council and the Government to do more about it. How can my children concentrate at school when they have to share a room with four others? I just want a decent home for my children”, she concluded.