Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous (HPB 131)

I am a Camden Council Tenant in a mansion block in Bloomsbury. I have lived here for many years. I live in a large flat but am hoping to downsize to a small flat on the same ‘estate’. I am concerned about the likely undesirable consequences of two aspects of the bill detailed below (points 1 and 2) and of both of them taken together (point 3):

1 Undesirable consequence of raising rents to near market rent.

The larger family households will be unfairly penalised and likely to split up.

If rents in Bloomsbury Council flats go up to around 4 times what they are now, I think large (sometimes crowded) families with several earners are likely to be unfairly penalised by the bill. Also I think they are likely to fragment into smaller economically viable households leaving behind smaller numbers in their large Council flats. Quite apart from the loss of these extended families this would also not be a very good use of housing stock. May I suggest that the bill takes steps to keep residents in their own communities (a) by lessening the proportion of market rent payable by Council tenants in high rent properties and (b) by considering special provisions for (often crowded) flats with several or many working adults.

2. Undesirable consequence of compulsory selling off of void high value Council flats.

Downsizing and upsizing locally will become impossible.

Under-occupiers, like me, will be unable to downsize here because the smaller flats will be sold off when they become vacant and not be available for downsizing. Older single people are reluctant to relocate to a different area, even within Camden – leaving behind a lifetime of local contacts - so the bill will discourage downsizing. It will also discourage upsizing, which is a live issue here too as we have many large families. May I suggest that Councils are allowed and encouraged to pro-actively offer all vacant flats to local tenants for downsizing or upsizing before they have to sell them off.

3. Undesirable consequence of both raising rents and selling off voids on the whole community.

Some of our best Communities in London will be destroyed

The mansion blocks where I live are not just flats. They are a thriving, diverse but cohesive community knit together by many relationships developed over a long time. Jump ahead 20 years, after this bill has been passed, and these flats will have become part of ‘Desert London’ sold off as investments to people living abroad and letting them out sporadically to tenants with no commitment to the area. My estate is not alone in being a community. I have seen other Camden estates where there is even more community than here with a lively street life of children playing and adults talking to each other. Estate Agents around here actually sell our flats on the strength of their occupied and community feel. May I again suggest that the bill takes steps to keep residents in their own communities by lessening the proportion of market rent payable by Council tenants in high rent properties.

In conclusion:

Council flats are one of the few remaining truly affordable forms of housing in this country and those that are occupied by tenants who work and pay the rent are not a burden on the taxpayer. May I ask: Why would you want to dismantle them? Why wouldn’t you want to extend this kind of settled community where leaseholders and tenants, rich and poor and all races, live together and benefit from the civilising effects of having their local council as their landlord.

December 2015

Prepared 10th December 2015