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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 6 August 2009
Judicial review on homes?

• CAMDEN'S sales of housing stock, flats and houses are said to be only of those that are vacant and non-viable because of estimated costs of refurbishments.
It is understandable if the sale proceeds are used to provide replacement housing stock. However, it’s clear that this is not on the council’s agenda. The sole purpose is to provide additional funding for the refurbishment/updating of other council housing for which the government has refused funding, despite many appeals made by Camden Council, past and present.
I have suggested to two councillors that a final appeal should now be made and recorded. If appropriate funding is still refused, an application for a judicial review should immediately be registered, naming the housing minister concerned.
It can be argued that the government’s funding refusal has been made on the grounds that Camden neglected to impose government policy, that of persuading tenants to accept management transfers to housing associations.
Tenants had a right to vote and did so, rejecting any such transfer. They wanted to remain as council tenants with the existing management that was answerable to the public, the electorate. That to regard the tenants refusal as grounds for refusing the funding is “unlawful” as the tenants had exercised their right to vote on such a change in the management of their homes.
Affordable housing, repeatedly quoted by government and housing associations, is now predominantly about “shared home ownership schemes” that have become a “con” to applicants. They are no longer affordable to those on low to moderate incomes in London. Applicants are not properly advised, not knowing that they are tenants until they own 100 per cent of their home and few are ever likely to be able to afford the additional shareholding required.
Associations now buy, sell or let housing at market prices. Property sales are used in support of their “trading profitability” (surplus). At a time when ever more people are in need of an affordable home, fewer rented homes are now provided than in earlier years. Altruism of the founders of such organisations has been replaced by the ambitions of career-minded executives and members of parent boards of management.
It’s councils that know local needs and should receive at least some of the public funding now given to housing associations.
Burrard Road, NW6

No mandate for sell-offs

CAMDEN boasts a consultation reaching 33,000 council residents and beyond in their stock option appraisals survey carried out last year.
As always, what tenants consider as crucial outcomes has been tucked away in the appendices.
We find it astounding that an executive member can go on record saying that a majority of tenants supported the sale of council homes to fund the Decent Homes, when the reality is that this consultation is in fact littered with examples which leaves Councillor Chris Naylor’s claims impotent. The following is only an extract of what we found:
Four Tenant and Resident Associations (TRAs), one focus group, three Neighbourhood Partnerships, all five District Management Committees (DMCs), Camden Association of Street Properties (CASP), all expressed either opposition to, or concern about, the sale of council homes. Two TRAs, three Focus Groups, all DMCs and CASP expressed concern about the potential adverse impact on waiting lists. One Neighbourhood Partnership expressed anxiety about sale of void properties given the number of homeless people and overcrowding.
We repeat, this council has no formal mandate to sell off council homes to fund the Decent Homes works, and he should be joining tenants to knock on housing minister John Healey’s door. He is on record as saying “I can and will give local councils other powers to respond to local pressures”, with the Prime Minister saying “by building new homes we will allow local authorities to give more priority to local people who have been on waiting lists for far too long”. Why is our council not grasping such opportunities?
The No Sell-offs Campaign Group invites this council for one last time to join with us to take our fight to Mr Healey.
The crucial message coming out from the July 27 public meeting is that tenants will remember at the ballot box next May.
For the record, I am not a card carrying Labour party member – in fact I carry no cards, and I find this diversionary tactic in last week’s CNJ from Cllr King deplorable . This is not about party politics, it is a tenant revolt at council policy!
Vice Chair, Camden Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations


• I WAS disappointed to read the misleading article (Frantic bids for prime property in good condition, July 30).
The article implied that the property on Finchley Road was “hardly in any need of refurbishment” and could be used by people on Camden’s housing waiting list.
This was despite my having made it quite clear to the journalist that both claims were inaccurate. I would like to clarify. The property was in need of substantial repair work and was never used to house tenants on the general waiting list.
The property was used as a house of multi-occupation with residents sharing facilities. The layout and condition of the property made it inappropriate for general needs housing so it provided temporary accommodation.
As Camden has a significant surplus of temporary accommodation places, it was decided some time ago that the Finchley Road property was no longer required and it has been empty for some months. It was inspected by an external chartered surveyor and would have required expensive refurbishment and conversion work to provide self-contained flats. The property needed new kitchens and bathrooms, as well as repairs of windows and doors, installation of new heating and plumbing systems and extensive electrical rewiring. However as the property sold for £1.5million we will be able to fund substantial investment in our council housing – around 375 kitchens, 750 bathrooms, or more than 2,300 new windows. The auction of empty properties has enabled us to improve to modern standards over 2,000 homes with new or refurbished kitchens and bathrooms.
Five years ago Camden tenants voted to reject the transfer of council housing to an arms length management organisation and the executive has respected that decision. Regrettably the government have used it as a reason not to provide the money needed to invest in Camden’s homes. Until that position is reversed – and we continue to press for a reversal – we need to raise the funding required to improve our council homes here in Camden – which means selling a small number of empty properties in need of substantial repair.
Executive Member for Housing Services


• I FIND it almost ridiculous that the Liberal Democrats are being portrayed in such an uncaring light. Having followed this issue since the arms length management organisation etc vote, when the Labour government refused to release funds to improve the housing stock, the Lib Dems have worked tirelessly to get that decision reversed.
The Lib Dems have been placed in a position where they have had no choice but to raise funds to maintain and improve the housing stock.
That those in the chamber cheered Labour MP Frank Dobson for pledging to take up the fight to his own party colleagues is truly incredible. What have they been doing all this time?
name and address supplied, NW8

We must act

• AS a Lib Dem councillor who attended the housing meeting at the Town Hall last week, I was very interested to hear what Labour MP Frank Dobson had to say. With commendable honesty, he did not shy away from pinning the blame for the challenges relating to Camden’s housing firmly on the Labour government. It is the government that has chosen to punish Camden’s tenants for rejecting the Almo by withholding funding for desperately-needed investment
We Liberal Democrats keep pressing for a government U-turn but we are not prepared to housing stock falls into ever greater disrepair. That’s why we have decided to find over £400m to invest in council housing. Because the government are starving our tenants of resources, some of that money will come from selling up to 500 (less than 2 per cent) empty properties. Sadly the local Labour Party condemns everything we do to improve council housing. But the truth is that they have no positive alternative to offer, except the same old failed policy of doing nothing and letting tenants suffer the consequences.
Liberal Democrat, Kilburn ward

Arrogant refusal

• YOUR report on the public meeting held by council tenants against Camden’s decision to sell off our valuable public housing to private developers (July 30) gave an excellent comment on the appalling situation.
It is deeply depressing that once again Liberal Democrat councillors dismiss the views of tenants wholeheartedly and have refused to join them in a joint approach to the government for direct funding for repairs, something I will do in partnership with Frank Dobson MP and tenants.
The Lib Dem leader of Camden astounds me in his arrogance refusing to join tenants in meeting the government and ordering his members to stand outside a meeting of tenants from across the borough delivering attacking leaflets without looking for any solutions or listening to tenants’ views.
Deputy Leader Labour Group

Only way

• THE Camden New Journal was right to call for political consensus on the response to the “rough hand dealt to council tenants by a government obsessed with neo-liberal solutions” (July 30).
But you were wrong to state that the only possible solution to the misery suffered by families living in Camden’s 10,000 sub-standard council homes is “a bold campaign against government policy”.
Even if such a campaign were to consist of Town Hall sit-ins and borough-wide rent strikes, do we think that this awful government would listen? The consensus we need now is to get behind Camden Council’s repairs programme, which involves selling just two per cent of the stock to make every single home decent, and then replacing the lost properties within five years.
Regent Square, WC1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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