Editor’s comment: What would Basil make of Camden?

Father Basil Jellicoe who transformed housing in Somers Town. Picture: CAMDEN LOCAL STUDIES AND ARCH

Father Basil Jellicoe who transformed housing in Somers Town. Picture: CAMDEN LOCAL STUDIES AND ARCHIVE CENTRE - Credit: Archant

Basil Jellicoe was spot on. His belief that everyone, no matter their means, deserved a safe, stable, good quality home is something the Ham&High is firmly behind.

It’s remarkable how much Fr Jellicoe’s battle to extend and improve social housing would be reflected by government policy over the decades that followed, particularly after the war.

But it’s sad, too, how much of that legacy has subsequently been eroded.

I’m 30. The year I was born, the rot had undoubtedly already set in – but Right to Buy was only eight years old, gentrification was a word few people would have recognised, and council housing was still largely in the hands of councils.

Fast forward to the present day, and more than 10,000 council homes in the borough have been lost under Right to Buy. The government is piloting a scheme to extend that right to tenants of housing associations, who bought up large swaths of what was once social housing in (mainly) the 2000s, which could see even more social housing lost.

Meanwhile, the transformation of inner London through the building of expensive private flats where there were once estates – perhaps not all of them adequate, but all of them sorely needed – continues unabated. Some of it has been largely beyond the control of planning authorities; some less so.

It’s against this backdrop that two councillors who ran against each other this year have made a cross-party call for the small quantity of social housing at 31 Daleham Gardens to be retained when the fire-ravaged property is rebuilt.

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Their call should be lauded, and listened to. But there were just three social homes there. Even after Camden’s cull of 23,000 households from the waiting list in 2016, thousands more are still waiting. There’s only so much people like Fr Jellicoe, or even an entire council, can do. And they should do it. But we need to look to the government, not to the town hall, to fix the housing crisis.