Hackney families living in council flats earn less than a fifth of those who have a mortgage, a council-commissioned report reveals. The report by Fordham Research also found a quarter of council homes are “unsuitable” for their tenants according to government criteria.

The average income of council  tenants last year was just £8,862. Owner-occupied households with mortgages averaged £46,616. Forty-four per cent of council tenants spent over half their income on rent, the survey showed, while the majority of households with a mortgage spent under a quarter on their repayments.

Nearly 18,000 households live in unsuitable homes – measured against criteria of size, type, design, condition and cost. This is nearly one in five of the borough’s overall total, and one in four council tenants.

The biggest cause of unsuitable housing is overcrowding, which affects nearly one in ten homes – four times the national average. Overcrowding particularly affects black and minority ethnic groups, and it has worsened in recent years, the report found. Nearly two-thirds of overcrowded households in Hackney have children.

Housing charity Shelter recently reported on the effects of overcrowding on children. Its chief executive Sam Younger said, “Overcrowding has a massive impact on children’s health, safety and future prospects and can cause depression for parents struggling to cope in cramped conditions. With many children unable to study due to a lack of space, the impact of overcrowding is robbing them of an education and a fair chance in life.

“London boroughs must work with the GLA, Government and agencies like Shelter to tackle overcrowding by ensuring enough affordable family-sized homes are built.”

Cllr Nargis Khan, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said, “Overcrowding remains an issue but we remain committed and will continue to find new ways to tackle this. The council is currently consulting with residents on a new overcrowding strategy as part of our future housing policy over the next five years.”

In addition to the overcrowding strategy, the council has also drafted a new Housing Strategy, which is out for consultation the till early January 2010. The plan proposes to address housing affordability in a number of ways, including relocation, the supply of new housing stock, and a low cost home ownership scheme that helps those on moderate incomes to part-buy, part-rent their home.

The council’s draft Housing Strategy 2010-2015 and Tackling Overcrowding Strategy 2009-2012 documents are currently out for consultation.

To voice your view on these issues, visit http://www.hackney.gov.uk/housing-strategy.htm or contact Rachel Salmon on 0208 356 7732, rachel.salmon@hackney.gov.uk.

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