Out with the poor, in with the rich

Other councils are watching as north London borough prepares to offer its 500 best council houses to top-earning private tenants.
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Russell Mansions in Bloomsbury
Russell Mansions in Bloomsbury is among Camdens’ prized council house addresses
Council houses with some of the smartest addresses in London — in Hampstead, Regent’s Park and Bloomsbury — are set to be rented out to private tenants for the first time.

Camden council bosses are considering a plan to cream off the best-located 500 properties in its housing stock so they can be let at money-spinning commercial rates.

The council says it desperately needs extra cash to repair its crumbling property portfolio but wants to keep the best addresses in public ownership.

Critics of the proposal — which could also be adopted by other London councils — say it would mean higher earners would have the pick of homes meant for families on the council’s waiting list. Many families stay on the list for months or years, they point out.

But the council says it is legally obliged to bring all its properties up to new standards of repair set by the Government and, without extra funding, must look at imaginative ways to raise the money.

'They planned to sell these properties - until the market changed'

According to the latest figures, a two-bedroom flat in Hampstead can easily be let for £2,000 a month. Camden believes it could raise £12 million a year if it let all 500 properties at the commercial rate.

Charlie Hedges, a former leader of Camden’s housing committee, condemned the proposals as “outrageous”.

“They have 17,000 people on the housing waiting list — some with three or four children but living in one- or two-bedroom flats.

“They planned to sell these properties off but then the housing market went down. Now they are talking about letting them instead,” he claimed.

“I think it is disgusting. If you have got money to go and rent, there are loads of properties available. But
people who have not got the money cannot get a home. Camden will be simply adding to the homelessness figures.”

The council stresses that the plan is at “a very early stage” and would require government approval and a period of public consultation before it could be put into practice.

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