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Bangladeshi families most affected by cramped housing

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BRITISH Bangladeshis have told Eastern Eye of the “trauma” they face living in cramped housing, as data shows that more people from this community live in social housing compared to other south Asian communities.

British Asians were overall least likely to live in social housing, but there were significant variations within this group, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS),

About 34 per cent of British Bangladeshi people lived in social housing, which is seven times higher than the number of British Indians, who had the lowest number of people in social housing of any group, with five per cent.

An estimated 16 per cent of British Pakistanis live in social housing.

British Bangladeshis were also the ethnic group most likely to live in overcrowded households, with nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) living in this situation on census day. That was significantly higher than the average of all British Asians, 23 per cent of whom were reported to be living in over crowded housing.

Sayed Hanif Khan, 46, lives in a two bedroom flat with his wife and four children in Bethnal Green. He told Eastern Eye he has been on the council’s waiting list for a bigger property for more than a decade.

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“I cry myself to sleep every night. I have three children sleeping in one room. Another child sleeping in the living room,” he said. “My daughters are now 17 and 116. They are women. But they have no privacy. They are sharing a room with their 14-year-old brother.

“My children are suffering so much because they can barely move in the flat. It has affected their mental health. They feel depressed living like this.”

Khan said he had spoken to the local housing association on numerous occasions about how long it would take for them to be offered a larger property. He had also persuaded the local councillor to write a letter on his behalf and letters from his GP to explain the impact the living condition was having on his family.

“All I get from the council is that there are many people in the same situation as me. One Tower Hamlets council person told me I was looking at a 10-15 year wait,” said Khan.

“My hands are tied because I don’t have the money to buy a house, or rent privately. I don’t know how much longer my family can keep going through this trauma.”

Rental prices across the UK have also risen at their fastest pace in seven years, according to the ONS.

Private rental tenants saw a 5.1 per cent increase in the 12 months to June 2023, the largest annual percentage change since re cords began in 2016.

According to the ONS, Indian employees had higher earnings (£17.29-per-hour) compared to white British employees (£14.42 per hour), but Bangladeshi (£11.90) and Pakistani (£12.50) employees earned significantly less than white British and Indian employees.

Harmander Singh, a social policy expert from East London, said: “If you live in rented accommodation, it’s even worse.

“Traditionally, a higher percentage [of Bangladeshis] are in lower-paid jobs, so the impact is greater; a larger part of their income goes towards it, along with feeding themselves and heating. So, it is more than a double whammy.

“It can affect a person’s health, the pressure to pay the mortgage and higher fuel bills. It is having a greater impact on the British Bangladeshi community.

“If one person falls ill in overcrowded accommodation, they all can fall ill and children will be off school.”

He added: “With higher property prices, people are borrowing more. So, they are more at risk of losing their home.

“It is not just finances, it is also health and wellbeing, as well as relationships.”

Shahnaz Sadiq, who lives in Dagenham, said she was “forced” to rent privately after waiting for a council to give her a property.

“I was on the waiting list for seven years. I was living in a one-bedroom flat with my husband, three children and my mother-in law,” Sadiq told Eastern Eye.

“Life would have been so much easier if we had a council flat. We would’ve paid around £650 rent each month. Having gone to private renting, we now pay £1,900 a month for our three-bedroom flat, which has gone up each year from 2020 when we were paying £1,500.”

Sadiq said she doesn’t regret going private, but admitted the financial burden is one she struggles with.

“I couldn’t have my children living in a one-bedroom flat. Luckily, my husband and I both work, but we barely get by each month. I am a nursery nurse and he works in a restaurant. Our rent takes up 80 percent of our combined monthly income; that is scary,” she said.

“We give our children the best life we can. Yes, they might not wear the most ex pensive clothes or get takeout food every week, but these are the sacrifices we have to make to put a roof over their heads.”

More British Bangladeshis are taking on the extra financial burden of renting privately, Jahangir Alamin, an estate agent in Stepney Green told Eastern Eye.

LEAD Housing INSET GettyImages 1562324670
Many Bangladeshi families walk into a debt-trap by renting privately

“We know that Bangladeshis tend to live with their families for as long as they can. We often see multi-generation households with grandparents, parents and kids in one house. Often, it’s more than one set of parents and children as well,” said Alamin.

“It’s actually an endearing part of our culture that families want to stay together. But, after a while, it becomes physically impossible to live in the same household and that’s when private renting comes into the equation, because council housing waiting lists are so lengthy.”

Alamin said he has thousands of people on waiting lists and some even go as far as putting down deposits for properties that may eventually become available for renting in the future.

“It’s crazy, to be honest. The competition for properties is so high. I have people wanting to pay me to view a property. We really have a massive housing crisis in this country,” he said.

Alamin works in an area where the Bangladeshi population is a majority. He said people have turned to “desperate measures” to find living space.

“I recently went to view one of my properties, a one-bedroom flat in Shadwell which I had rented out to a couple who had no children. It was an unannounced visit,” he said.

“I walked in and found a bedsheet used to separate the living room with a bed on either side. And then in the bedroom, there were two sets of bunkbeds and three single mattresses on the floor. There were seven grown men sleeping in one room, all Bangladeshis, who, I later found, worked in the restaurant managed by the man I had rent ed the flat to.”

Homeowners, on the other hand, have felt the strain of 14 consecutive interest rate hikes which finally ceased in September.

“My mortgage payments have gone up by over £800 a month,” Anwar Hussain told Eastern Eye. “We bought at a time when house prices were sky high, but we thought the interest rates would stay relatively low, like they had for the previous decade.

“I am college lecturer and my partner works part-time in Asda. We are borrowing money each month from my parents; that’s how hard it is for us.”

Hussain, 37, said he has been making interest-only mortgage payments for the last six months.

“I keep hearing the Bank of England and MPs talking about inflation and the cost of living crisis, but they are killing homeowners to bring inflation back down. How are the price of goods coming down going to help me if I lose my home?”

Two thirds of UK mortgage customers want more flexibility from lenders, research has found. The survey also revealed a further 37 percent are more inclined to look beyond big banks and traditional high street lenders for their mortgage needs over the next 12 months.

Alpa Bhakta, CEO of Butterfield Mortgages, which commissioned the research, said: “Over the past year, mortgage customers have had to grapple with a string of consecutive interest rate hikes, which is creating challenges for many.

“With interest rates at a 16-year high, it is increasingly important that mortgage customers feel supported by their lenders and that we, as an industry, are doing everything we can to provide the right levels of guidance, communication and flexibility amid the ongoing economic challenges,” Bhakta added.

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