Conrad Landin

Home » Uncategorized » Camden: you can’t afford to live here, and that’s alright

Camden: you can’t afford to live here, and that’s alright

Well done Camden communications team, who have just printed the latest edition of Chester Balmore link “on sustainable, environmentally friendly paper”.

Camden council recently granted planning permission for the demolition of the Chester Balmore estate. In the judgment of “regeneration” officers, the development potential of the site – the fact that you can squeeze a few more dwellings in – was more important than displacement of residents and the architectural appeal of the site, located near the even more revered Whittington Estate.

Not that Chester Balmore was in a perfect state. Years of neglect meant that externally it was hardly appealing. It hadn’t had so much as a lick of paint since it went up in the late 70s. And while refurbishment would be costly, “regeneration” offered the opportunity for the scheme to pay for itself – for private dwellings will also be built, and sold on with a profit to the council.

View of the smaller (Balmore) block of Chester Balmore from the estate's courtyard

But picking up the regular update us local residents (thankfully) get, I found myself asking the same question that shot Joan Collins to fame in Ireland earlier this year: have you no shame?

Camden’s communications team evidently doesn’t. It’s newsletter announces with pride that “Our plans will provide 53 new homes; over half of these will be affordable.”

The offending passage

If you don’t speak development-speak, you’ll be wondering what they’re doing with the others. Will they lie empty? Why build houses if no-one can afford to buy them?

Or you may simply be deeply offended.

If you do speak development-speak, you might be wishing whoever wrote this wasn’t so shameless. Yes, of course people will be able to buy them. But no doubt the property market in this part of North London – the estate lies in the Dartmouth Park Conversation Area – will dictate that some of the properties will only be available for those above a certain income threshold.

Politics can be a dirty business. Sometimes, in order to achieve the target of socially-rentable and cheap homes you want, you may (justly) have to sell some at the market price.

But to be so shameless about it is something else. ‘Affordable housing’ is a technical term which has come to use in the climate of in-affordability for the many. But to use it as without quotation marks (at least) shows complacency among council officers.

We should constantly question the injustice of the fact that housing is often inaccessible to the vast majority – rather than insult residents in municipal newsletters. A little sensitivity can go a long way.

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