Mayor John Biggs has warned that the Housing Act “represents a real threat to Tower Hamlets as a community” and pledged to implement a strategy to mitigate its impact.
The controversial Housing and Planning Act, which passed into law last Thursday, has received widespread criticism from a coalition of campaigners.
The Act forces councils to sell off high value vacant local authority properties to fund the extension of the government’s right-to-buy scheme to housing association tenants.
It also introduces ‘pay to stay’ charges for tenants in council houses earning more than £40,000 per household a year in London.
Campaigners argue the Act will lead to the loss of social housing in the borough, as well a decline in the availability of affordable housing.
Responding to the passage of the Act, Mayor Biggs said: “There is much talk about affordable housing, but affordable to whom? Many residents cannot afford the rents being asked, and as the housing crisis deepens, the introduction of this new legislation will only make this problem worse.
“The council will take a stand by launching our own independent housing strategy, working with residents to come up with practical solutions as to how we can reduce the impact of this harmful legislation.”
Meanwhile, campaigners in the borough have vowed to continue fighting the Act, arguing its passage represents “a declaration of war” on working class communities.
Glyn Robbins, from the Tower Hamlets Kill the Housing Bill campaign, said: “The new Act will do nothing to improve the housing crisis, it will make it worse. There will be fewer genuinely affordable homes for rent and more people will be forced into sub-standard private renting and poverty. Families and communities will be broken up.”
Mr Robbins emphasised that “the fightback has only just begun” and that “local campaigners will be working to build an alliance of all tenants, trade unionists, politicians and community groups to demand secure homes for all and rent control.”
But the government’s Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, called the Housing and Planning Act a “landmark” piece of legislation that “will help anyone who aspires to own their own home achieve their dream”.
“It will increase housing supply alongside home ownership building on the biggest affordable house building program since the 1970s,” he said.
“The act will contribute to transforming generation rent into generation buy, helping us towards achieving our ambition of delivering one million new homes.”
A public meeting to discuss the impact the Housing Bill will be held at 7pm on 25 May at the Ocean Estate Community Hall, Ernest Street, E1 4SC.