Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Camden Labour isn't reverting to hated auctioning of council homes

Contrary to the CNJ's article (18th July, "Investigation launched into how Town Hall sold off council home without housing chiefs realising"), Camden's Labour administration has not reverted to the hated policy of the Tories and Lib Dems of auctioning council homes.  The property referred to was a 'tied cottage' linked to the cemetery there, a relic of yesteryear where cemetery workers lived on site and rented properties a cheaper prices in exchange for labour. 

Camden is actually building new council homes - with the first coming in Chester Balmore and Bacton - and over 1100 extra are planned over the next 4 years, the biggest council house building programme since the late 1970s.  

318 High Road Barnet N2 is a semi-detached Grade II listed former cemetery workers lodge located within St Pancras cemetery in Barnet.  Accommodation is in basic unmodernised condition and is adjacent to the exit gates at the cemetery: one of four similar former operational buildings that were built for and occupied by cemetery staff. Two of the adjacent properties have been sold, and one is still in use by a retired cemetery worker. It is held in the General Fund, not the housing fund.

The tied cottage became vacant in January 2010, under the previous administration, and was no longer required for operational use by cemetery staff.  No other operational use was identified. It was not considered viable for an social landlord to fund an acquisition for social rented accommodation. The property was considered for appropriation for direct letting as social housing by the Council, but similarly this was not recommended as a viable option due to the out of borough location, small size, higher than average maintenance liability due to its Grade II listing, and other costs.

The property was also consecrated and the application to the Bishop of London to obtain a deconsecration order took considerable time.

The premises were occupied by squatters on 10th July whose representative initially stated that they were protesting against sales by Barnet Council, but then stated they were protesting against sales of property by Camden. The squatters were removed by police, after we called them, and the sale is due to complete in accordance with the sale contract. The property sold for £304,000 and the receipts will be used to repair our primary and secondary schools.

While no council home has been sold by Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems have put in place policies which mean there are more right to buys, with losses only offset by the building we are doing.  

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