Council responds to claims that Camden Community Investment Programme is failing to build enough social housing
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A report has revealed more council homes are currently being demolished than built, but Camden Council says it needs to balance affordable homes with the private flats that fund them
A Freedom of Information request lodged by Sian Berry, London Assembly Member for the Green Party, has revealed that the Camden Community Investment Programme (CIP) will provide fewer council homes than hoped.
The CIP Challenge website, produced by a cross-party and non-party group of residents, has revealed that the programme will demolish 400 council homes and produce just 278, representing 17 per cent of the total. “They are knocking down more homes than they are building new,” said Sian Berry AM. “There is a net gain but it’s nowhere near as much as [the council] try to make out.” Ms Berry lodged the FOI request in anticipation of a review coming up in July to decide the future of the programme.
The CIP is a 15 year project that aims to provide 3,050 new homes by 2025 across 20 schemes. 11 per cent of the homes will be provided through shared ownership and 1,650 homes will be available for private sale. The FOI request revealed that the scheme has been £36 million more profitable than expected, and is currently averaging delays of two years per project.
“The smaller net gain in council homes, plus the fact that while you’re doing schemes such as that you’re putting other council homes out of action for several years, that’s got to be factored into the benefit cost ratio and I don’t think it is at the moment,” said Ms Berry.
“Things such as social impact are not taken into account, it’s all about how much money you make in the end and getting in as many homes as possible without a focus on getting as many council homes in.”
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Berry argues that demolition displaces tenants while they wait for new homes. Her website predicts that in 2018 and 2019 there will be 165 council homes out of action due to CIP projects.
At Bacton Low Rise, 99 homes were demolished to be replaced by 195 net new homes, just 20 of which are council owned. Since more people moved out of the block than have been rehoused, Berry argued the result of the project is a net loss.
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At Agar Grove, just 2 per cent of the net new homes will be council homes, equating to six properties. No new tenancies will be issued and 112 properties were demolished to make way for 244 new homes. At Maiden Lane, 237 net new homes will replace the 36 demolished, 42 of which will be council homes.
Ms Berry argues that infill schemes such as the one at Kiln Place in Gospel Oak are a better choice. “Infill schemes are getting done quicker, they have a higher proportion of council homes and they’re costing less,” she said.
The council has rejected Ms Berry’s findings, arguing that it ignores the limitations on delivery prompted by government restrictions on Housing Revenue Account borrowing last year, and sidelines many of the additional aims of the CIP.
“This is a deliberately misleading Green Party analysis of the Community Investment Programme that is simply about attacking the Labour Party,” said Councillor Phil Jones, stressing replacement and refurbishment schemes and the rebuilding of schools and community centres have been ignored by Ms Berry’s report.
“Camden’s approach is to build as much council housing as we can within the constraints imposed by the government, and our big estate regeneration schemes generally deliver a 50-50 balance between affordable homes and the private flats that fund them.
“The Green Party’s deliberately misleading analysis ignores the new schools, community centres and council house repairs that we have delivered through CIP. It also argues that replacing badly-designed council homes that were damp and in disrepair was not necessary and won’t be in the future – this is highly disrespectful to the council tenants affected.”
Ms Berry hopes to establish a People’s Land Commission to press for some of the £36 million unexpected surplus income to be used to convert existing homes to council properties by adding additional stories, refurbishment or extending.
“We want to look at how to do that in different ways, building more on top, infilling in car parks and garages, doing that creatively and with the community. You might get things done quicker as well because they’re not going to be challenged.
“I really dislike this idea that estates are Brownfield land, and that’s what they’re being classified as by a lot of consultants and councils when they’re not,” she said. “There are existing communities there who ought to be involved.”
The council maintains that all approaches are being considered openly.
“We are looking at a range of options for future delivery of CIP and will launch inclusive public discussions about this when we have finished our research,” said Cllr Jones, who dismissed Ms Berry’s labelling of the all-Labour working group as operating ‘behind closed doors’.
Cabinet members are due to make a decision on the future of the CIP at the end of July. You can read Ms Berry’s report on the CIP Challenge here.