Meranti House

2015-17, 19-storey block of flats (under construction)

Rashid Ahmed's thoughts on new housing in the area
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 20, 2018

Rashid Ahmed is a Rehab Support Worker at the Royal London Hospital, here he shares his thoughts on the new housing being built in Goodman's Fields, and in the area more generally.

"Housing has always been a problem for people, for residents of Tower Hamlets. Having heard that, "Oh, we're building new properties for the locals", that's not necessarily the case, because Tower Hamlets has always had a burden of a housing list for years.

It's not new, it's not a phenomenon, it's always been the case, but it's never accommodating the community needs. We don't need two, three bedroom flats, luxury flats. We need three to four, maybe even five or six bedroom houses and flats for the large families that need it.

I want to stay here, I want my family to stay here because my family wants to stay here. My friends want to stay here, their children want to stay here, everyone wants to stay. You don't want just to be uprooted because of financial reasons.

Everybody wants a bigger house, everybody wants a garden, no one is going to say no to it. The question is this, is that do you want to be uprooted or moved because you have no option? Do you understand? If you want a garden and a bigger house doesn't mean that you’re going to have to leave London to access that by compromising your family, your social network, all the other services that you have access to, and move into a strange remote area you have no idea what it could provide for you and your children.

Then develop a whole new social network not knowing what type of culture this area might have. Because you might be living in Britain, doesn't mean that there's a culture that's universal from place to place because it isn’t like that.

We know exactly what the future is looking like for us and it's looking bleak, simply because of the fact that we don't know who decided to quadruple or even beyond that the land prices, and alongside the house prices.

Londoners don't have a hope here of surviving or living in Tower Hamlets. For me, I’ve said to myself and I say to young people, “Listen and look at what the demographics is looking like for Londoners who were born and raised here for five to 10 year's time.”

I've heard for years people saying there's no place to build flats, we don't have homes for you. Every time I look and I should be documenting the expansion of new estates and new properties in Tower Hamlets..

..So it depends on how we’re talking about it, because to me it seems that when you start defragmenting people from their neighbours, and the people that they grew up with and they have close ties with as a community. And you start splitting them up, and you start re-housing them, and they start settling down. You’ve broken up -- you’ve taken the power away from the community. It takes generation to develop a community and this is why there isn’t a community anymore, people--

..We’re talking about quality of work, quality of life, and the competition with rent prices we’re not going to survive that. I’m working and I’ll be consistently working. [In] years to come my salary won’t survive my rent, I will struggle. We’re talking about gentrification, I will have no option but to move out.

I think that the fact that you’ve come and you’ve asked me this I feel quite honoured that I can actually voice for vulnerable people. I’m not someone who’s at risk per se at the moment of losing my home, or losing my job. I’m in a secure job I’ve been working at the NHS, I think probably just over eight years now.

But my concern is for people who aren’t in my position, to people who aren’t on the housing list, who are being forced out away from their families and their friends, and their place of work. Even if they re-house you and you have a job here, now you’re talking about an additional cost of having to travel in.

So those people like the nurses, doctors, the junior doctors, and in other departments of the health service who might not be on a higher salary, don't they need protection?

…It’s a fantastic borough. Tower Hamlets, there's no place like Tower Hamlets as it stands. We don't know what it's going to look like in five years, 10 years to come. Tower Hamlets is a vibrant place to live and grow up in, it's a fantastic place to have a child from."

Rashid Ahmed was in conversation with Shahed Saleem on 26.02.16. The interview has been edited for print.