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Camden Council says it is tackling the scandal of empty homes

PUBLISHED: 06:17 23 December 2011

A derelict home in Holmes Road Camden

A derelict home in Holmes Road Camden

Archant

Freddy Faren-Owens, 18, has lived next to an abandoned house all his life.

Freddy Faren-Owens is 18-years-old and has lived next to an abandoned house all his life.

The boarded up windows of the detached home in Hawley Road, have become part of the furniture in this corner of Chalk Farm – but he doesn’t like it.

“It is about time the council started doing up a few more homes in Camden,” said Mr Faren-Owens.

These sentiments are shared by people across Camden, who are becoming increasingly concerned that derelict homes continue to languish on their street corners as social housing waiting lists climb to 18,000.

But town hall chiefs insist the problem is an inherited one, the culmination of years of underinvestment in social housing.

They say their controversial new Community Investment Programme - which will see community centres, buildings and plots of land sold off to raise funds to bring homes up to standard and back into residential use - will alleviate the problem.

But they do not expect to eradicate it.

Cllr Julian Fulbrook, Camden’s housing chief, said: “What we are trying to do with sustainable communities is look at brownfield sites or rooftops or basements.

“As a council we saw we weren’t going to get any money from the government for capital works. One way of doing that is raise it ourselves by putting homes up for sale and using the money for social homes.”

Cllr Fulbrook recognises this is a “stiff challenge” but insists the council is trying to bring the 2,750 vacant homes within its borders back into use.

He points to their scheme to refurbish Holly Lodge Estate in Highgate as evidence of this.

But he draws a distinction between 2,000 private homes left unused by landlords who are sitting on them until the market picks up, and 752 council properties which need money to be brought back into use.

He said: “The property market is part of the problem. In Hampstead it is pretty buoyant any time of the year, but that is not the case in the rest of the borough.

“People say they are going to develop new homes and then they leave them. They keep putting in planning applications but then deferring the work.”

The government has awarded more than £150million to tackle empty homes.

It has also launched a consultation on introducing an “empty-homes premium”, which would be added to council tax to create a disincentive for landlords to leave properties empty.

London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone insists the answer lies in working more closely with councils and pension funds.

He said: “We should take compulsory purchase orders, do these homes up, and take people off the social housing waiting list.

“This requires money and this is what pension funds can leverage in.”

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