Cllr John Moss, a councillor in Waltham Forest, has been asking how many Council tenants are living in overcrowded homes in contrast to those affected by reductions in Housing Benefit. He got an extraordinary response from Barking & Dagenham…
Last week I put down a Written Question to the Cabinet Member for Housing in Waltham Forest asking how many of the Council's own tenants were on our waiting list because they were living in overcrowded homes and how many were looking to downsize.
The answer interesting. 1,082 households (out of just over 10,500) are looking to move because they need larger homes, but just 251 are looking to downsize. To be fair to the Council, they also gave me the figure of 501 households who they estimate are likely to be affected by the reduction in Housing Benefit for those tenants with extra bedrooms.
So it is pretty clear in Waltham Forest, that the problem of overcrowding is significant and any "nudge" that can be given to encourage those with spare rooms to downsize in order to help with this ought to be welcomed. Not surprisingly, my invitation for the Labour Group on the Council to welcome the government's initiatives in this regard failed to secured any support.
I wondered what the situation might be in other London Boroughs and took advantage of Barking & Dagenham's Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr P T Walker, running a Twitter Q&A to ask him if they had more overcrowded homes than those affected by the removal of the "spare room subsidy". He confirmed there were and that his Council were prioritising households affected by benefit changes, rather than those in overcrowded homes.
Don't forget that Barking & Dagenham Council saw fit to allocate a two bedroom flat to its own Leader (income from allowances, £45,000pa) six weeks after he split up from his wife. (details here). Needless to say I mentioned this to him.
You can see his reaction in the screen grab below.
Well, I couldn't resist a little gentle mocking about the old Marxist dictum about means and needs, but I was amazed when he responded with the extraordinary suggestion that private, owner-occupied homes ought to be subject to some sort of over-occupation penalty. Cllr Walker declined to respond to my final question asking if he favoured stealing peoples' property acquired with after tax income. Funny that.