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City Hall’s housing chief reveals plans to tackle Hackney homeless crisis

PUBLISHED: 11:48 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:53 15 February 2017

James Murray, London's deputy mayor for housing

James Murray, London's deputy mayor for housing

Supplied by City Hall press office

London’s deputy mayor for housing reveals City Hall’s plans to tackle the housing crisis in Hackney – and admits rising homelessness ‘really shames London’ in an exclusive interview with EMMA YOULE

Support the campaign by tweeting using the hashtag #HiddenHomelessSupport the campaign by tweeting using the hashtag #HiddenHomeless

The man in charge of housing policy at London’s City Hall has revealed £50million has been set aside to provide “move-on housing” for people in homeless hostels and refuges.

James Murray, London’s deputy mayor for housing, said building new homes of all types was a priority, as he admitted homelessness in the capital “really shames London”.

The council, charities, and other housing providers in Hackney will be able to bid for the new cash.

It will come as welcome news for our borough, where more people live in hostels than any other local authority in London by almost a factor of two.

“We know building more houses takes time and there are families right now who are in a very difficult situation because of homelessness,” said Mr Murray, in an exclusive interview about the Gazette’s Hidden Homeless campaign.

“One of the things the Mayor of London has done is set aside £50million for move-on accommodation, which is for people who find themselves in hostels or refuges, and it’s to provide places for them to move on to.”

When asked how City Hall plans to tackle the housing crisis, Mr Murray said:

* Developers who build 35 per cent affordable homes will be fast-tracked through the planning system

Hackney Gazette online poll resultsHackney Gazette online poll results

* City Hall will support high-density building, including high-rise towers where appropriate, in future policy

* But the green belt across London will be protected.

While unable to provide specific detail about policies that will affect Hackney, the deputy mayor said City Hall is using planning guidelines to push up levels of affordable house-building London-wide.

A policy announced last year offers fast track planning for schemes that provide 35 per cent affordable homes.

Critics say developers are currently given an easy ride on ducking out of this quota.

“In the last year that we had data for under the previous mayor, the level of affordable housing was 13 per cent, so clearly there’s a lot of work to do to raise that level,” said Mr Murray.

“Getting it up is going to be a marathon not a sprint.”

As a Gazette readers’ poll this week showed support for building taller tower blocks in the borough, the City Hall housing chief said denser building would feature in future policy.

This could include high-rise towers but also “mid-rise mansions or other forms of apartment block,” he said.

“We’ve been really honest with Londoners from the start by saying it’s going to take time to turn things around in terms of building more housing,” he said.

“But we in City Hall are working very closely with councils like Hackney to ensure we increase the number of genuinely affordable homes.”

YOUR VIEWS

We asked: should Hackney Council build taller blocks or sacrifice green space to help tackle the housing crisis?

Here’s what you said on Twitter...

@SaveNorthwoldE5: not if it means demolishing people’s homes and disrupting communities!

@keyzee66: think they should build communities not more towers

@JayJay_thats_me: absolutely. It’s the only way.

@EOkenesi: I think

@hackneycouncil should invest & expand social housing for POOR people instead of the #gentrified

@Iammariama: no use empty properties

@Trajon7000: neither, just stop letting people into the country. Weather [sic] it be for work, marriage or very very long term education.

@MargroeRoe: It’s the ppl living in small, high density homes who make the sacrifices. Ppl living with more space just make the decisions

This story is part of our Hidden Homeless campaign to shine a light on the issue of temporary accommodation in Hackney. Read more news, stats and opinion at our Hidden Homeless microsite – and find out how you can tell us your story or add your name to our manifesto.

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