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Housing

Housing crisis update: A man has now built a wooden house on a London pavement

In a borough with 21,000 households waiting for a council house, what else can you do?

If you were wondering how London’s housing crisis is going, look no further than the man who has built his own wooden house on a pavement in east London.

The roof of the house is criss-crossed with fairy lights. Image: Greg Barradale

The house, complete with a locking front door, fairy lights, a fence and a parrot mascot, has sat on the pavement in Bethnal Green since the weekend, according to locals.

Neighbouring shopkeepers told The Big Issue the house is on its second iteration. It was reportedly knocked down a week ago, but in an act of defiance the creator – who was out when The Big Issue visited – rebuilt it.

Tower Hamlets has one of the highest rates of homelessness in London, with statistics from 2021 showing 2,853 households in the borough were in temporary accommodation.

Mr L Miah, who runs a leather business next to the house, said: “He needs help, is what I think. He needs the council to come and put him up somewhere.”

Tower Hamlets Council said it planned to offer the man accommodation tomorrow – and would not knock the house down until it had made the offer.

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There were over 21,000 households on the council housing waiting list in Tower Hamlets, as of October.

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The occupier is a young man, and regularly makes improvements to the house, Miah added.

He’s also erected it next to a BT digital advertising board, presumably for the free WiFi and USB charging.

Miah called for action from the council, claiming that people gathering around the house were putting off customers. But staff at neighbouring Eyeculture Photographic Lab said the man keeps himself to himself, and doesn’t disturb their customers.

The house has been built next to a BT digital advertising board with USB charging. Image: Greg Barradale

“When he’s here he is inside, he doesn’t disturb anyone. When he’s away he locks the door. He sleeps there at night,” the staff said.

They added that the previous, smaller, house had stood for two months. They described the man as well-dressed, and claimed he used to be an engineer for the London Underground.

“He said as long as the council doesn’t do anything for him, he will be here,” they added.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of this person and their situation and are currently working on an accommodation plan for them. We do not intend to clear the structure until we can make an offer of accommodation, which we aim to do tomorrow (Friday) and we hope that the individual will accept.”

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