High-quality social housing was a triumph for Camden council in the Sixties and Seventies. Inspired by an earlier generation of modernist architects, it built low-rise concrete estates that are now listed and coveted, including Bloomsbury’s brutal but beautiful Brunswick Centre.
As the Government encourages councils to look at expanding their housing assets, Camden is again building showpiece homes. But this time many of them will be sold. Under its new Community Investment Programme it will sell land and bulldoze older, discredited estates to raise more than £1 billion.
Profits from private sales will be ploughed back into neighbourhoods, with 3,000 new low-cost homes planned, better public and green space, new schools, shops and community facilities. Other London boroughs are watching, keen to find innovative ways to create more homes. The Camden initiative comes as the Camden Town area is regaining its cachet as a top address, with a radical makeover of its canalside market, many new homes, a boutique hotel, a primary school, plus new shops and market stalls being built by private developers.
Camden: from punk rock to posh
Several of the new council projects are reincarnations of “iconic” housing schemes from Camden’s Seventies heyday. Part of the Maiden Lane Estate on the northern boundary of the vast King’s Cross railway complex — then a joyless spot and now part of a swish new business-cultural quarter — has made way for a new scheme of 273 homes called XY Apartments.
Architect PRP sought to recapture the avant-garde aesthetic of the original Seventies estate, with sleek, white, linear blocks of varying heights, wide, recessed balconies and big windows. Crisp, modern interiors have underfloor heating and there’s a concierge. Prices from £545,000 to £830,000. Call 020 7299 3091.
Savills is selling the homes, part of a portfolio of schemes bundled as The Camden Collection and including Plender Street, by Mornington Crescent Tube station, with 31 flats priced from £537,500. Call 020 3320 8220.
Holly Lodge Mansions bordering leafy Highgate and Hampstead is a local landmark. Built in Tudor style in the Twenties, the original layout was designed by Sir Ebenezer Howard, creator of the “garden city” concept that captured town planners’ imaginations in the early 20th century. Camden council took over the estate, now a conservation area, in the Sixties. A rolling refurbishment is freeing up apartments for private sale. Prices from £705,000.
Many of Camden’s best council homes, including at the Brunswick Centre, have been snapped up under Right to Buy. But affordable resales do come up. A 1,200sq ft flat at architecturally prized Whittington Estate in Highgate is for sale at £795,000 through The Modern House. Call 020 3795 5920.
With an average house price of £799,803, according to Rightmove, Camden is the third most expensive London borough after Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. The new council-built homes are being sold for market value but are pitched at “ordinary” middle-income Londoners.
Other private-sale projects in the pipeline include Bourne Estate in Clerkenwell, Tybalds Estate in Holborn, Abbey Road, just north of St John’s Wood, Bacton Estate at Gospel Oak and Agar Grove, Camden Town.
Camden Courtyards, a former optical works, is now 164 homes, half “affordable”. Clad in patterned brick and with a Corten steel two-storey roof extension, the S-shaped building allows for two internal courtyards and roof terraces. Prices from £755,000. Call 020 7428 4455. Barratt, the developer, and supermarket chain Morrisons also plan a big flats scheme near the Roundhouse music venue, while Centre Point, the landmark Sixties West End office tower, is being redeveloped with homes.
King’s Cross cachet
Camden Town used to suffer from the industry linked to Regent’s Canal, and proximity to King’s Cross railway wasteland. Today, canalside regeneration is transforming the area, while 67-acre King’s Cross Central is a gleaming new neighbourhood and business district.
Spectacular wedge-shaped flats are being built at The Gasholders London, within the restored framework of three listed King’s Cross gas holders. Circular walkways will overlook an open-air internal courtyard. One gas holder will have a communal roof garden, while the roofs of the other two blocks will be private terraces for duplex penthouses. From £810,000. Call 020 3504 6933. Nearby Onyx Apartments comprises 117 canalside flats including glass-walled penthouses. From £750,000. Call Cushman and Wakefield on 020 7355 8172.
‘Hidden homes’ in SW18
Wandsworth council is unlocking vacant laundry and boiler rooms, store sheds and garages, subways and redundant roof space to create more than 500 homes, with first-time buyers often getting priority. It is believed thousands of new homes could be created in this way. Residents are being encouraged to identify spaces suitable for conversion and architects will be invited to come up with designs for the innovative use of “dead” spaces. Southwark, Hackney and Greenwich councils each spend up to £500,000 a year securing empty homes after tenants leave. Some remain empty for years, but housing charity Empty Homes wants councils to follow the Dutch way, selling them at a discount to young gentrifiers.
Wandsworth already has a self-build scheme for residents using council land, while City Hall has launched a Land Assets Database to identify land and buildings ripe for redevelopment into new places to live. The Greater London Authority owns 600-plus hectares, plus buildings such as fire stations, which it intends for redevelopment. In the Budget, Mayor Sadiq Khan received £3.1 billion to fund low-cost homes.
Lambeth council is collaborating with developer Pocket, which specialises in lower-priced, small inner-city flats. Former council garaging at Sail Street, near the Thames and Parliament, has been redeveloped into 70 flats. Call 020 7291 3683.