View from the chamber: Time to invest in people and their homes


- Credit: Archant

Consider the important relationships in your life.

Your family, your friends and your neighbours. Your children and their inspirational teacher. Your nurse or carer who helps you stay living independently. The police officers keeping us safe. They all contribute to our sense of community amidst an ever-changing city.

The strength of Camden is its social mix. But what will happen to this if these groups of people cannot, as we know is already urgently the case, afford to live in Camden or get the council home their family badly need?

There’s been a lot of debate – and rightly so – about giving key public service workers a pay rise for how they helped people affected by the terror attacks and the tragic Grenfell fire last year. However, a small pay rise would only go so far if these key workers cannot find the affordable homes they need to continue doing their jobs.

In Camden we’re taking on this housing challenge. We’re building over 3,000 new homes – including over 1,000 council homes - through our Community Investment Programme, which we set up in 2010 in response to government cuts to investment in house and school building.

Last weekend, I went to a community fun day at the Maiden Lane Estate to celebrate the 273 new homes we’ve built there. I met families of five and six people who had previously been living in one bedroom flats but were now moving into new council homes. Their children were beaming with pride at the sight of their own room and having the space to do their homework and play.

We’ve also created a new type of genuinely affordable housing we’re calling ‘Camden Living Rents’. These are significantly discounted from private sector rents and ensures there is another option for people unable to get on the housing ladder or who do not quality for a council house. These people could be our sons and daughters, or those vital public sector workers Camden needs.

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So far, so good. However, we’re funding these new council and affordable homes ourselves, by building private homes for sale or selling unused council owned buildings and land to generate the funds. To scale up our investment, and deliver even more genuinely affordable homes, we need Government to back Camden.

On Monday, the Treasury Select Committee endorsed the need for the local authority borrowing cap to be removed – a move we’ve been calling for some time. This would allow us to borrow more to build the homes badly needed right now and contribute to the national target of 300,000 new homes needed per year.

We are here to work with government and other public sector partners to trial and find innovative ways to reduce the cost of construction and increase the availability of land needed for homes.

Camden has always been a borough that’s built public housing. A fortnight ago, we said goodbye to the great, late Neave Browne, architect of the iconic Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate.

We want to continue this legacy – and urge the Government to back us to build.

• Councillor Danny Beales is cabinet member for investing in communities at Camden Council