When I hear of the tensions caused by the shortage of affordable housing in east London, I am grateful for the good sense and generosity of spirit that we find in our area. But that is not to say that housing is not a problem.
This week, as always in advice surgeries, I have found families where Mum sleeps on the sofa and boy and girl teenagers share a bedroom, a situation which becomes intolerable with puberty.
A wonderful retired couple would love to have their disabled daughter and grandchild live near them so that they could help out and keep their daughter in work but local rents are beyond them. I am working with a mum, deserted by her husband, left with four children including one that needs constant medical intervention, trying to cope in a one bedroom flat.
At the same time we know that in our area open spaces and gardens are precious and need to be protected.
Some people are suggesting that council housing and housing association homes should no longer be for life but just available on a temporary basis. To my mind this gets us nowhere. The private sector is just too focussed on the luxury end of the market.
Instead I would argue that we have reached the point where powers and access to housing funding need to be returned to the local community, the councils and local housing associations. Not only could we increase affordability but we could also create homes to suit local people for example for older residents in need of increasing support.
Street homelessness is rare in our community, thanks to charities like SPEAR and our wonderful churches providing winter night shelters, given extra support this year by Kingston’s Mayor.
But we need lasting solutions before east London’s tensions become ours.