Response to the East End Sisters Uncut protest at Marian Court
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville responds to the protest at Marian Court in Hackney, led by East End Sisters Uncut, about use of 'threats of intentional homelessness' by councils.
We will always support the right to protest in Hackney, and it is clear that we and East End Sisters Uncut share many of the same views – that London’s housing social housing shortage is a disgrace, that attacks on social housing are unacceptable, that a decade of austerity has led to an increase in homelessness, and that every family in our borough deserves a safe, secure and genuinely affordable place to live.
But the housing shortage in Hackney is a direct result of a continued lack of action from national government, and it is ironic that the place they have chosen to campaign is among the dozens of sites where Hackney is building one of the biggest programmes of new Council homes in the country to tackle this head on.
Meanwhile, Marian Court is also just one of the places where we have brought over 500 empty homes back into use as temporary accommodation as we tackle a 40% increase in families coming to us for help with homelessness since just 2018. Though this is only part of our response to homelessness, it prevents as many families as possible from having to move to hostel accommodation or outside of Hackney while we try to find them a permanent home in the borough.
With the permanent Marian Court residents already rehoused in new Council homes nearby, we have used the existing buildings to house around 40 of Hackney’s 3,000 homeless families on a temporary basis, until demolition. Despite the huge challenge in finding long-term homes in Hackney, I’m pleased that we’ve been able to find all but two of these families a secure, permanent and genuinely affordable home that meets their needs.
We’re continuing to work with the remaining families to ensure they are suitably rehoused too and – contrary to some suggestions – never use the threat of ‘intentional homelessness’ to force anyone into a home that doesn’t meet their needs.
‘Intentional homelessness’ is a legal term defined, not by the Council, but by government legislation on how councils should support those seeking help to find somewhere to live. We have a responsibility to advise families on homelessness legislation, including the rules on intentional homelessness, when we make offers of accommodation so that they can make a fully informed decision. But we know that nobody chooses to become homeless, and it is both offensive and simply not true to suggest that we would bully vulnerable families out of their temporary home.
Thousands of families are supported by the Council’s Housing Needs team every year as they seek to prevent homelessness, work with rough sleepers and try to find temporary accommodation that meets the needs of the most vulnerable.
Of course we don’t get things right every time, and I am always the first to apologise and try to fix things when they go wrong. But after a decade of austerity, councils are forced to make difficult decisions every day about how to support the growing numbers of families needing help to find somewhere to live.
Local authorities across London are at breaking point as the government’s policies force more families to be evicted from the private rented sector and elsewhere, driving up the number of our residents who have nowhere else to turn. That’s why I’ve longed campaigned – whether marching, lobbying or speaking in Parliament – for the reversal of harmful welfare reform, an end to attacks on social housing and long-term and sustained investment in council housing, so boroughs like Hackney can build even more.
I’d encourage East End Sisters Uncut to join us in making that case to government for real solutions to homelessness instead – starting with meaningful central funding for social housing, better protections for private renters, and an end to the austerity measures that have fuelled Hackney’s housing crisis.
The demolition of Marian Court will mark the start of the final phase of our project in Homerton to replacing ageing homes that don’t meet modern standards with 275 new high-quality homes – many of which have already been completed and are home to families previously on our housing waiting list. Despite minimal government funding, three quarters of these will be Council homes for social rent, shared ownership homes for first-time buyers, or our pioneering new living rent offer for private renters struggling with rising costs.
These are just some of the thousands of homes that we are directly delivering – either by replacing poor quality Council homes like-for-like with modern ones, or making the best use of Council land – to provide new social housing for the very people East End Sisters Uncut protest on behalf of, and which our dedicated teams try and help every single day.
Hackney is building around 2,000 new homes, three schools and a leisure centre between 2018 and 2022. More than half of the homes will be genuinely affordable homes for social rent, shared ownership or living rent, with the remainder sold outright to help pay for them in the absence of government funding for social housing. Find out more
Marian Court is part of the wider transformation of Bridge House and Marian Court, which is delivering 275 high-quality new homes to replace the existing homes which are in poor condition and uneconomical to refurbish. Once complete this will include 81 homes for social rent, 117 for shared ownership and eight for living rent, with the remaining 69 sold outright to help pay for them. Find out more
Despite the huge challenge in finding long-term homes for families in Hackney, we’ve now rehoused all but two of around 40 long term temporary accommodation residents at Marian Court temporarily in a secure, permanent and genuinely affordable home that meets their needs. We are continuing to work closely with the remaining two families to ensure they are suitably housed.
More than 13,000 families are on the Council's housing waiting list, with over 3,000 living in hostels or other temporary accommodation. Since 2018 there has been a 40% increase in the number of families approaching the Council as homeless.
Between April 2018 and December 2018 13 households in Hackney were deemed intentionally homeless. This is just over 1% of families who approached the Council as homeless, the fourth lowest of 14 inner London boroughs as a proportion of homeless applicants, and less than a tenth of the proportion of some other boroughs. Full figures on intentional homelessness