Frank Dobson MP leads tributes to 'community hero' who helped save hundreds of Camden homes
PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 February 2014
Leading Camden politicians have paid tribute to a community activist who spearheaded a triumphant campaign to save hundreds of families from being uprooted by plans to sell off their homes.
Steve Smith, chairman of the Cumberland Market Estate Residents’ Association and a former Camden Council officer, has been described as a “community hero”, after he died aged 59 following a long battle with leukaemia.
The father-of-four led a successful campaign against attempts to sell the estate to the highest bidder in 2010, which many feared would have seen rents soar and families driven out.
Camden Labour politicians Frank Dobson MP and Cllr Tulip Siddiq remembered a selfless man who fought tirelessly for the benefit of others.
Cllr Siddiq, a Regent’s Park councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, said: “Steve Smith was a real community hero. He fought endlessly for other people’s rights and his values of social justice, fairness and equality were unrivalled.
“He always put others before himself and we will miss him dearly. He was one of the unsung heroes of our time and my thoughts are with his family.”
Mr Smith grew up in Tufnell Park and attended William Ellis School in Highgate Road, Parliament Hill. The lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter worked in local government for more than 30 years and met his wife Jean in the 1970s, when they were both in the council’s housing and environment department.
The family lived in Caversham Road, Kentish Town, before moving to the Cumberland Market Estate in 1989.
Mr Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said Mr Smith’s efforts were “absolutely crucial” to saving the estate, which was eventually taken over by social landlord Peabody rather than a private developer.
He said: “He had an overwhelming commitment to trying to make sure that ordinary people could continue to live in our area, in decent homes that they can afford. He showed that you can win these fights.”
His sister, Janet Smith, said he was a lovely brother who was passionate about social housing and had a keen interest in local history.
Mr Smith died on January 28. He is survived by his wife, Jean, daughter, Sarah, sons, Gary, Tony and Paul and two grandchildren.