Camden’s ‘CIP’ funding model relies on the construction of market-value homes for sale to generate capital for investment in new council and other affordable homes. At West Kentish Town estate this model results in around 3x the number of homes (2:1 private: public) and around 4x the building volume/ habitable rooms compared to the existing.

We think that the scheme for rebuilding West Kentish Town estate should be designed around what is best for residents, not around a funding model that is subject to the vagaries and risk of the housing market, and which results in an excess of expensive private homes that do not address local need.

A neighbour recently asked Camden Council the following question:

“Do you think this economic model is sustainable post CV19 as this will have a significant impact of the type and scale of the proposed development. It is anticipated that there will be a huge economic downturn, high unemployment and more remote working which reduces the attractiveness of one beds to purchase? What economic modelling is the Council doing to take this into account? How does it plan to manage this risk?”

Councillor Danny Beales replied:

“This project is a long term one over ten to fifteen years so much may change, and we always have to plan for changes in markets, sometimes multiple times before projects complete. We have considered the impact of Covid 19, we also must think about the future economic challenges throughout this project. We could consider alternative forms of construction such as offsite manufacturing, reducing labour intensive aspects of the project and as we have to look at ways of social distancing on construction sites. We will continue to monitor the housing market and look at broader economic trends. There is a view that there is a mini peak of interest in home ownership following the relaxation of stamp duty for example and continued help to buy schemes. Medium term outlook is more uncertain and there are mixed predictions. We will continually review this, and our projections will be cautious, and we will have contingency plans to allow for economic downturn, and cautious valuations and contingencies in project budgets. We have faced several challenges in the housing market with the financial crash, Brexit and now Covid 19 CIP remains resilient.”

The fact that Camden Council has to continually monitor and gamble on the property market in order to deliver much needed benefits for Camden residents is an indication that this is not a sensible approach. Alternative funding models should be investigated, and we call on Camden Council to carry out an in-depth and rigorous study. This would include partnerships with different types of housing providers such as Housing Associations or housing co-operatives. An interesting approach is the one demonstrated by the Tubingen Baugruppen in Germany. Here is a video about it:

Another option would be community-led development via Community Land Trusts, which is actively promoted by the GLA as an alternative model (see here).

In order to reduce construction costs retrofit could be considered as a cheaper way of providing good quality homes, as has been done in Arctic Street by North Camden Housing Co-operative. See details at Anne Thorne Architects’ website.

Carlton Chapel House, Arctic Street, NW5

Carlton Chapel House was built in 1983 by the North London Housing Co-operative. It sits well within the scale in of West Kentish Town’s victorian streets. Due to the original construction of the building it had environmental problems including damp, mould, cold and lack of ventilation. ‘Enerphit’, which is the Passivhaus standard for retrofit, was used as the basis of the redesign to create the low-energy well-ventilated flats.

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