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View from the chamber: We can’t fix homes crisis without help

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 November 2018

Archant

One of the cornerstones of our shared community vision “Camden 2025” is that everyone should have a place to call home.

But Camden is currently at the sharp end of a UK-wide housing crisis.

This crisis is being exacerbated by huge government funding cuts to councils nationwide. The government has cut Camden’s funding by more than half since 2010.

We also need a strong capital budget to invest in building the new homes and community facilities Camden needs. This means new council homes; living rent homes for our teachers, social workers and those growing up in Camden; and investment in community centres and schools.

We haven’t used government funding cuts as an excuse for not building. Our Community Investment Programme, borne out of this challenge, funds building new council homes and vital community facilities through building and selling homes.

Since 2010, we’ve built more than 285 new council homes and 65 living rent homes, invested more than £115million in 48 schools and children’s centres, and provided new and improved community facilities.

We plan to build at least 1,100 council homes – but we want to build many more and faster. This is why we’ve consistently called on the government to allow us to borrow to fast-track our housing schemes. The prime minister has, after eight years, finally listened and agreed to scrap the borrowing cap – a big step forward. It shows what can be achieved when local government, residents and public services stand together with a united voice.

We will keep fighting for every extra penny to invest in housing in Camden – and we are making significant breakthroughs.

We have just secured £30million from the mayor of London (see p4) which will help us meet some of the costs of building 308 new council homes over the next three years. This is a real boost, especially as we expect to build a further 150 council and living rent homes on top of this over the next four years. But if we are to significantly scale up delivery, we need the funding to meet the full costs of each council home we build.

We also need to invest in our current housing. We committed to a new standard of resident safety in Camden after we had to evacuate the Chalcots Estate last year. We were the first council in the country to commit to removing unsafe cladding and immediately began emergency repair works to get residents back into their homes. Across Camden, we began an extensive programme of enhanced fire risk assessments and set up a resident-led safety panel, to ensure tenants’ concerns and issues are acted on.

The government has recognised our approach and approved our bid for £80m of funding, which will pay for the replacement of cladding and curtain walling at the Chalcots Estate. It will also ensure we can deliver the highest standard of resident safety, without affecting our programmes to improve and refurbish our homes and build new council homes.

In Camden, we believe everyone has the right to a safe, decent and genuinely affordable home.

The government must back councils like Camden that are committed to delivering this vision, even in the most difficult circumstances.

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