Following my post last night about the role of Shiraj Haque, it’s time to raise a couple of points with Lutfur Rahman and his two closest lieutenants, Cllr Marc Francis and Cllr Ohid Ahmed.
(By way of background, Marc has spent his professional and political life working for and with the likes of Shelter to tackle the issues of housing and overcrowding. Ohid, a “regeneration specialist”, has spent his professional and political life working with big developers…)
In this article for the Tower Hamlets freesheet, East End Life, last October, both Lutfur and Marc are quoted as follows:
The green light has been given for 17 new council homes to be built in the borough.
Tower Hamlets Council has been awarded £1.7 million from the Government to build the affordable homes as part of the biggest council house building programme in almost two decades.
It was one of 49 local authorities that successfully bid for a portion of the £127 million fund – and the council will match the Government’s investment in order to fund the project.
Most of the homes will be three or more bedrooms to help meet the demand for larger properties, and will be completed by March 2011.
Lead councillor for housing and development Marc Francis welcomed the funding: ”Tackling the desperate shortage of affordable homes is right at the top of this council’s priorities.
”Overcrowding is undermining our children’s health, education and life chances. And the shortage of affordable homes has forced far too many of our young East Enders to leave the borough.”
He said local housing associations had done a great job building thousands of new homes in recent years. But council leader Cllr Lutfur Rahman and he believed that local councils should play their part too.
”That is why the council has developed an Overcrowding Reduction Strategy,” he said.
Here’s an extract from that strategy:
The strategy aims to tackle overcrowding by:
- Reduce overcrowding in existing housing stock, and put in place preventative measures to reduce future overcrowding.
- Increase the overall supply of housing for local people including a range of affordable, family housing.
- Prevent overcrowding and homelessness by providing access to the right housing options at the right time
Tower Hamlets has invested in pilots to determine how the Council with partners might best support not just overcrowded families but also under-occupiers in order to make best use of stock.
One of the reasons why overcrowding exists is because some large family-sized homes provided by the council and housing associations are occupied by people who could very easily afford to live elsewhere. I suspect the four-storey home in Pritchard’s Road, which millionaire Shiraj Haque rents from the Peabody Trust, is one such case.
I’ve no idea how long Shiraj has lived in the modern-looking property, but according to the Land Registry, the freehold for the land was transferred, presumably for development, by Tower Hamlets council to Peabody in 1998. Electoral roll records show that Shiraj has been registered there at least seven years, (ie from 2003), while one member of his family – I think it is his wife – has been registered there for nine years, ie from 2001.
Again, I don’t know whether their home is classified as social renting or whether they rent it from Peabody on the open market; if it is the former, however, it is worth looking at Peabody’s own requirements here:
How to apply for a home
To apply for social housing, you must initially apply and complete the application form at your local council. They will assess your housing need and may house you in their own property, refer you to Peabody or to another housing association.
You can only apply direct to Peabody if you are looking for supported living for older people.
Some local authorities operate a choice-based lettings scheme. Instead of simply waiting until you reach the top of the list and taking the property that you are offered, choice-based lettings allows applicants to bid for those properties they are interested in.
If more than one person bids, then the property is given to the person with the greatest housing need.
We are committed to ensuring that social housing residents (those in general housing needs) have more choice and control over where they live and we run our own choice-based lettings scheme, selections.
If your council runs a choice-based lettings scheme, then you can choose to view our homes which are advertised locally.
You can also view the full range of homes available on the selections website and bid for any home for which you are matched.
So, I’m intending to send the following questions to Lutfur on this issue.
1. Do you welcome the support of Shiraj Haque?
2. Has he or any company in which he has a control provided any cash or non-cash support to your mayoral campaign? If so, please detail.
3. Were you aware that Shiraj Haque owns, through his company Renegade Investment Properties Ltd, £2.4million of property assets, and through Redstar Assets Ltd, in which he has a 50% share, a further £0.75million?
4. Given that issues of overcrowding, lengthy housing waiting lists and the lack of family-sized accommodation are central to your campaign, do you think it is morally right for wealthy individuals to live in large homes provided by housing associations?
5. Have you visited Shiraj Haque’s four-storey home in Pritchard’s Road, which is owned by the Peabody Trust and where, according to the electoral roll, he has lived for at least seven years?
6. Were you aware that it was owned by a housing association and have you asked him why he does not vacate it in favour of a family more in need?
7. Have you asked him, or will you ask him, when he or his family applied to Peabody Trust to live in the property, who made the application, what proof of need they provided and whether he made his fortune since moving in?
If anybody has any more questions you’d like me to pose, let me know.