Opinion: Still fighting inequality 100 years after the introduction of council homes

Cllrs Meric Apak and Danny Beales are celebrating 100 years of council housing but also working for

Cllrs Meric Apak and Danny Beales are celebrating 100 years of council housing but also working for the future. - Credit: Archant

Last month marked one hundred years of council housing in the United Kingdom.

The Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, otherwise known as the Addison Act, gave funding to councils to build homes that ordinary people could afford. It also provided the "homes fit for heroes" promised to soldiers returning from the First World War.

Dickens' novels evidence how overdue this legislation was. From the slums of Saffron Hill sitting alongside Fagin's Den, to Steerforth's Highgate home - in those days almost a country retreat - whether you were a "have" or a "have not" determined the quality of your housing and health.

Nowadays, we have 33,000 council and leaseholder homes in Camden, including 2,000 street properties and 23 sheltered housing schemes. They form part of a truly mixed housing offer in Camden, helping us maintain our diverse communities.

However, the number of council homes has been restricted, affected by Thatcher's Right to Buy policy and insufficient funding from governments to councils to build the quantity of housing needed and to maintain our existing council homes. As we acknowledge in our Camden 2025 vision, we still have some way to go on this vital issue if we are to eliminate inequality in Camden.

Council housing has shaped our lives personally. For both of us, at various points, it has provided a stable family home. These experiences have driven us as councillors to do all we can to ensure that everyone in Camden has a place to call home.

Limited support from government means we need to pay for new homes, schools and community facilities by building homes for sale, through our Community Investment Programme. Due to changing market conditions and a failing private rented sector, we will also start to hold on to some of the properties originally built for sale and rent them at market levels instead, offering renters a landlord they can trust, longer tenancies and stable rents.

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We are putting millions of pounds into expanding our Community Investment Programme, by building hundreds more new council homes and new community facilities, holding ballots for tenants on the redevelopment of estates in Haverstock and Gospel Oak and buying back homes we built decades ago but subsequently were forced to sell under Right to Buy. These will be bought back from the open market for use as council housing. We believe the government must go further and help councils to build faster by providing grant funding for this crucial community infrastructure.

We want those with the means to do so to "buy into Camden's community". By buying or renting one of the homes we build at a market rate, buyers can help to fund new schools, new community centres or a family home for those who can't afford it, and themselves get security of tenure and a reliable landlord. For more information visit thecamdencollection.co.uk/

To mark one hundred years of council housing and our largest house building programme in a generation, we are planting one hundred trees on our estate land across Camden. If live in a Camden council home and would like to have a commemorative tree planted near you, please email us at HousingNews@camden.gov.uk