Prince's Park residents forced to use 'poor door' furious over service charges for concierge they can't use
PUBLISHED: 17:40 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:40 28 November 2018
People in the affordable housing that forms part of a luxury development in Kentish Town are being made to pay a service charge... for services they can’t actually use. Sam Volpe speaks to neighbours at Prince’s Park
A group of homeowners and private and social renters in Kentish Town are furious at being made to pay for concierge services that only their better-off neighbours can use.
Four years ago, the installation of a so-called “poor door” in the newly-built Prince’s Park development in Kentish Town drew the ire of many who said it was “social segregation”.
For residents of the block in 2018, not only are they isolated from the wealthier private residents of their building, but their “rapidly increasing” service charges include a substantial proportion for reception desk services they cannot take advantage of.
The group of residents – who have been told their fees go towards “traffic management” – are now seeking to challenge them in a tribunal, claming they are “unjustified”.
Alistair Law, 38, lives in the block as part of the shared ownership scheme.
He has withheld paying his service charge and been leading the plans to take the issue to tribunal. He said: “What we want to do is prove the charges are unjustified. We are trying to record the amount of time the concierge staff are monitoring the traffic and when they deal with the other residents in that side of the block.
“We have lots of photos of proof showing they are not managing the traffic actively.
“We hear they do send the odd parking fine.”
Stuart Warren, who lives in the block with his wife and child, said: “The first time it came up we asked what exactly we were paying for and they haven’t really come up with an answer.
“There’s been mention that the concierge provides traffic management services, but we don’t understand what that even would be.
“We simply couldn’t use the concierge services. You can’t get through the building that way.”
Claire Davies, 32, has been a social tenant in the block since March 2016 along with her partner and four children.
She told this newspaper that moving in had been “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made”.
“It’s been one thing after another,” she said. “The door itself was broken – we had a homeless person on our stairs.
“Having to pay a service charge for something we cannot use is ridiculous.
“They should help us too, but they get really grumpy if you ever ask them anything.
“I had parked my daughter’s bike outside and it got smashed by a car. I asked them if they’d seen anything or had CCTV and they just wouldn’t help.
“They will do nothing regarding our block.
“It’s beyond a joke. The whole maintenance of this side of the block is ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, for Matt Harvey, the charge is making living in the block untenable.
“It’s supposed to be affordable housing but it’s just not affordable any more,” he said.
“The service charge completely changes that. It’s an intolerable situation. We’re funding services for the wealthier residents.”
Cllr Meric Apak, Camden’s housing chief said: “This type of segregation does nothing for building bridges and cohesive communities so desperately needed in our times.
“If reports are indeed true that these residents are contributing towards concierge charges, I would say this rubs salt in the proverbial wound.”
A spokesperson for OneHousing Group – the housing association that is the landlord of the social housing part of the building – explained it was constrained by contracts predating it.
They said: “Within the section 106 agreement with Camden Council and the original developer there was a requirement for traffic marshalling. This service is provided by a concierge which also provides services to the private residents.”
OneHousing said it had repeatedly raised concerns about the division of costs with the managing agent.
“Through negotiation we did manage to reach an agreement to reduce the hours of the concierge and therefore reduce the cost to all residents. However, in its most recent budget, the managing agent decided to increase the proportion of concierge costs charged to One Housing residents compared to 2016/17.
“We disagree with this decision and the disproportionate costs to our residents. Despite several attempts to engage in constructive talks, the managing agent will not review its decision.”
The housing association confirmed it would continue to challenge the charges and would keep residents informed.