North London's Cultural Guide

Are we all being priced out?

It's an area on the verge of a dramatic social shift, argues Kentish Town born and bred Tim Sowula, who has just moved out to Leytonstone

The Brinsmead Building on Wilkin Street is now upmarket flats. Note the development on the right too. Pic: Tom Kihl
The former industrial heart of Kentish Town is now being reinvented with upmarket flats and creative spaces. Note the development of the Victorian ‘Fleet House’ under scaffolding on the right too. Pic: Tom Kihl

The sad thing about moving out of Kentish Town isn’t necessarily leaving the area, but the sense that it may be impossible to live there again.

This isn’t written in ignorance of the huge luck in being able to decide about where we can live at all. But when realising our small flat couldn’t fit in a family, the elephant in our two rooms was, in fact, Kentish Town itself. Of all places, has it joined the ranks of London’s privileged communities? And has that gate quietly shut to most over the last decade?

Like almost all of my ‘class of 98’ mates from William Ellis, I’ve now moved out of the area – in my case to Leytonstone, still less than a half hour from the Heath (via the handy Gospel Oak line) with a vibe that reminds me of Camden in the eighties.

My personal situation is typical in that it raises a question of what will Kentish Town be like in the future if, for the first time, the traditional pool of people who could previously settle and have families  – small business owners, creatives, public sector workers and middle-class professionals – can no longer afford the type of property that would allow them to do that.


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Camden Council’s recent decision to sell a site in Willingham Close to a private developer, rather than use it for council housing, exemplifies the problem. The developer Pocket Living (ie don’t try and swing a cat) boasts of creating flats for young professionals to get their first step on the fabled property ladder. But Kentish Town needs to be able to allow Londoners to stay in the area, rather than have fun and then move out when life gets more serious.

It’s no bad thing that NW5 has improved to the extent where there’s gourmet coffee on every corner, but – like many other up and coming areas in the capital such as Hackney and Peckham – this isn’t ‘standard’ economic progression. A recent report by trade union GMB has found that the average earnings of Camden residents fell by the second highest amount in the country over the last five years. Annual earnings in Camden have fallen by around 31 per cent since April 2008 when taking into account the rate of inflation. Actual wages have fallen by almost £7,000, or 12.9 per cent.

Whereas the cost of renting or buying accommodation has shot up, to benefit a few and restrict many. Even in the cheapest quarter of prices, monthly rent for a two bed has gone up 9% in inner London over the last eighteen months.

A diverse crowd at last year's annual Alma Street Festival. But is a dramatic social shift on the way? Pic: Stephen Emms
A diverse crowd at the annual Alma Street Festival. But is a dramatic social shift on the way? Pic: Stephen Emms

The census has shown that the population of the borough of Camden is estimated to have grown by 8.6% between 2001 and 2011. Yet with fewer people now in social housing, there’s been a 4.6% jump in the private rented sector. The wards of Kentish Town, Gospel Oak and Cantelowes figure as some of the most overcrowded in the borough. More and more Kentishtowners are squeezing themselves in, until, inevitably they will have to move further out.

The private rental market is by nature transient and short-term. If the kids, students and young adults who were settled in an area and formed part of the community have to leave, then Kentish Town will become reliant upon the settled families clinging on to their houses to prevent the area becoming the setting for Richard Curtis’ next London fairytale. God help us all.

Because if being a ‘Kentishtowner’ actually matters, then the area could be on the cusp of a fairly dramatic social shift. Recruitment of fresh, long-term residents is now restricted to those who can either afford extortionate rents, put up with living in very squeezed accommodation, have been here for decades, or are millionaires. In the last month since I left, my newsagent has been turned in to a boutique florist and the Pizza Express – currently squatted – will apparently become an art-house cinema.

A sad paradox of Kentish Town – and many other once earthy London neighbourhoods  – now gracing homes and property pages is that getting ‘on the map’ of cool areas means sliding off the map of where most folk can actually live. NW5 used to be a refuge for foreign people; now it’s becoming a refuge for foreign money.

So I ask you: out of the shadows, has an area that once was a haven from all the ta-daah neighbourhoods surrounding it quietly become part of the ‘in crowd’? And, therefore, will the next generation of Kentishtowners have to move out?


27 thoughts on “Are we all being priced out?”

  1. The neighbourhood is definitely changing, but that’s the way of life in London. Neighbourhoods rise and fall in popularity and priciness – although admittedly in the last 20 years it’s all been one way but at some in the future it will reverse in certain places. In the meantime some people will win, and some people will lose. That’s life.

    If we try to stop those changes – and I’m not sure we could even if we wanted to – then the city will stagnate and become an undynamic museum piece, like central Paris or Rome. Those are great cities, but they’re not vibrant, exciting places where the world meets. I prefer London and Kentish Town as the latter, not the former.

    1. Hi Julianator,
      Thanks for your comments. Personally, although I think that if some people gain then its natural that the gain may come at the expense of others, I also believe strongly that we shouldn’t accept that there must be losers, and just metaphorically shrug our shoulders and count our blessings. There are means to try and support those who are less fortunate and help them out, and ultimately the ‘winners’ benefit from there being fewer losers too.

      I believe that economics is a human construct, it’s not ‘natural’, and it’s an lazy excuse for policy makers to just blame a ‘cycle’ as if there’s nothing they can do about it. The current housing crisis in London and the South East is entirely the result of government policies, it could, over time, be altered by various measures, some good, some not so good – taxes, building more housing stock, re-balancing public investment and creating more jobs to other parts of the country, banning immigration – lots of tough decisions and hard choices. But the current state we’re in is down to choices policy makers have made. Sadly our economy and the political class it supports is pretty much dependent now on housing debt, so there’s not much chance of things changing soon – there has to be a housing bubble or we’ll all go down. This long essay by James Meek is well worth sticking with, it explains a lot about that, better than I can. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n01/james-meek/where-will-we-live.
      Best, Tim

      1. Thanks for the thoughts. Tim. The problem is that stopping the mobility or limiting house price rises also creates losers: if we make it harder for people to move into the borough, they’re forced to live somewhere else that they may not like as much. If we try to restrict house price rises then people who have taken out mortgages already and put money into the houses will lose out, or if they’re Landlords, they won’t get a fair return on their investment. And if they can’t get a fair return then they won’t maintain their properties, which in time creates slums. Limiting prices rises tells builders not to build more, which in turn costs jobs in construction and limits housing stock even further.

        For what it’s worth, my belief is that high house prices tell us that we need to build more houses to bring house prices down. But we can’t build enough houses fast enough because of planning laws. So my solution would be deregulate a lot of planning, enabling construction to take place where and when it’s needed.

        But even that would create losers – people who already own houses, who thought they were doing the right thing by scrimping to pay huge prices.

        So I guess I’m saying: every policy creates losers and winners, so the question is really: who do you think deserves to be a winner and who deserves to be a loser?

        1. Hi Julianator,
          I don’t think that housing policy ought to be something that creates winners and losers – everyone has a right to shelter, it shouldn’t be so commodified so that people now see property/land as primarily an investment rather than a place to live.
          It should be possible for people who own property to continue to see it gain some value without it gaining value so quickly it excludes others. This is a London-centric problem; even in other parts of the UK housing is far more accessible and communities aren’t divided in to ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.
          Best, Tim

          1. Schnauzer Minelli

            I agree with Tim. I feel it very difficult to sympathize with people owning houses who are worried about the value of their houses not rising fast enough. A house should first and foremost be a place to live, not an investment. Now this may sound very harsh coming from someone who rents and is not tied into a mortgage but I think this is the root of the whole problem: people getting forced onto the housing ladder as if it was something positive to buy over-prized properties and get screwed over by the banks (and to some extent by the government).

  2. This article really struck a chord. I’ve lived in Kentish Town for a number of years now and have made it my home – I love it. My rent’s high, but just about affordable. But if I ever wish to own a property, it’ll never be here. It will break my heart when I have to move out – in some ways, I wish I was in this position 25-odd years ago, before property price rises completely excluded all but the wealthiest from buying around here.

  3. Sure this is a phenomenon going on across London, and indeed across many cities in the World. Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Oxford who has written a book about the UK housing crisis (quoted in yesterday’s Evening Standard), argues that the inequality and problems in the housing market are down to ‘rising greed and selfishness’. Self-interest is governing housing policy in our country. But are those the values we want our communities to be built on?

  4. Social change and gentrification: this has been going on in Kentish Town since houses / farms were first built in Kentish Town; in other words, it’s always been thus. I do think that like Notting H, Kentish Town’s superb location and stunning Victorian properties have meant its a bit of a ticking time bomb on this front. That said, the co-op at the foot of Patshull Road has just been sold to, wait for it…not Waitrose…not Sainsburies…but Lidl – a superb supermarket with products and prices that appeal to all. Perhaps we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and take stock of what we’ve got – a vibrant and varied community with one hell of a heart.
    Just one more thing, if so many areas are up and coming, where are those that are down and going?

    1. re: down and going – a rising tide floats all boats. For the last 30 years as London transformed from grotty and boring post-war capital to vibrant world city, driven by de-regulation and the boom in he finance industries, money and people have flowed in from all over the world.

      But at some point that trend will slow or reverse and at that point there’ll be a few neighbourhoods that will go down instead of up…

  5. This is not a new thing at all. I was born and breed in Kentish Town. My parents still live there but after I moved away to Uni moving back was just a fantasy dream and this was in the mid 1990’s. Makes me chuckle to see this written now as if you are the 1st generation for this to happen to. Sadly you are not, there are whole generations ahead of you already relegated to the dull dismal suburbs who will forever long to return home.

    Mollyxxx

    1. Hi Molly, thanks for your comment. You’re definitely right that people being priced out of areas is not a new thing at all, and it’s my fault if it came across that I was saying this is an entirely new problem.
      What I think is different though is the pace of recent increases in rent/house prices, general cost of living, compared to the downturn in people’s wages and average incomes – coupled with the fall in new housing stock coming on the market, and less support from Government to help people out. I don’t think it’s never been hard for people, but I do think the evidence suggests it’s even harder now, for even more people, than it was before. This website I think has some interesting data on recent trends http://www.crumbsforlondon.org.uk/.
      Best, Tim

  6. There is another factor that effects housing prices that hasn’t been mentioned. Scarcity. From personal experience I know that the lovely Victorian road we live on is 70% owned by the council, 30% private. So, in reality there is hardly any housing stock on the market. Who suffers in this climate? People who aren’t given state support.

    We bought here 3 years ago. We’re not foreign millionaires. We’re a young couple with our first child on the way. We are mortgaged to the hilt and work 3 jobs between the two of us. We love the area but can’t help but feel something isn’t quite right about the fact that in a few years when we have a family, the only houses suitable for us will cost in the region of a million pounds, while we see our state supported neighbours with five kids living in houses we can only ever dream about living in.

    If the council allowed the area to be slightly more mixed, ie, 60% council 40% private or even a 50/50 split, the effect on housing prices would be that they would go down as there wouldn’t be so many people looking at so few houses. Also, the money the council could generate by selling off some expensive to maintain period properties could be used to build new social housing in the area for greater numbers of people. Is it really fair that people who work hard but don’t earn that much are pushed out in favour of those living from the state?

    1. So you are advocating pushing people who have made their lives in Kentish Town out because it has become a desirable place to live?

      If so, how would that work? At what point would tenants in an area be evicted so more wealthy folks could move in?

    2. 100% agree. It’s important that the area remains mixed, but the fact is we are very close to a situation where you can only now move to KT if you are very wealthy indeed or very poor indeed (and therefore eligible for council housing). That locks out the vast majority of the population and will damage the area more than anything else.

      The council doesn’t need to push people out but it should seek to sell off certain high-value properties as their tenancies end (through death or people leaving the area). and use the cash to build higher-density modern housing elsewhere in the area. That would help the area to stay fresh while encouraging aspiration and enabling young families to move in.

      1. Interesting idea, but why would it be restricted to high value properties? That would still leave the middle income group priced out.

        It’s worth noting that when a house on a popular road went on sale a couple of weeks ago 70 people went to see it and it eventually sold for 25% over the asking price, so the council couldn’t release stock quickly enough to bring prices down.

        Finally I wonder if there is a reason why this isn’t already happening, I’m sure Camden could do with the money.

        1. Fair point about high-value…i was just thinking that selling a handful of high-value properties is less likely to reduce council housing stock than selling lots of mid-value ones. But then you end up in the situation where selling the expensive stuff doesn’t make it easier for the middle incomes families to move in. Perhaps there should be a ratio for guidance – e.g to justify a sale of a house the money raised would have to add more capacity than was lost? e.g. a sale of a 1 bed flat would have to raise enough money to build a a property that could house more than one person?

          re: impacting prices – bear in mind also that there’s a double whammy if the rue above was followed: one more house in the market but also extra council housing provision created which removes someone from the lower end of the market too.

          There’s a simple reason why this isn’t happening: Labour ran in the last local elections on a promise not to sell any council housing stock. There’s no real reason for them to have promised this, except to shore up their vote amongst some of our local champagne socialists.

    3. Same in Hackney. 40% of the stock is social housing. The shortage of private houses (partly due to the high % of social housing) really pushes up the price of the remaining stock. It’s pretty bizarre lying in a street where a long-term unemployed person gets to live in a very valuable home on full benefits, whilst a private tenant or homeowner, in an identical property next door, has to works all hours to get by, and often pays 4 times as much for their efforts!

  7. @tally – Scarcity is a problem no doubt and as Kentish town housing campaigner the late Alan Walters used to say ‘Scarcity breeds scapegoats’. The lack of affordable housing is not the fault of your neighbours who live in council housing. The stock of council housing has massively decreased in the past decades since ‘right to buy’ was introduced. Unless your neighbours are recieving housing benefit they are not ‘living from the state’. If some of them do get housing benefit at least the money is then staying in the housing system rather than lining the pockets of, or paying the mortgage of private landlords and property investors.
    Council housing rents are paid into something called the Housing Revenue Account from which management and maintenance costs are paid, it is a general misconception that somehow council housing costs are paid from general taxation – wrong. Central government over the years have in fact ‘top sliced’ this fund, (kept some of the money) and also prevented councils from being able to reinvest receipts from ‘right to buy’ sales in more housing.
    The sale of council housing does not make more affordable housing available quite the reverse. In the past when there was more available it was the ‘working poor’ who were often given priority for social housing. Your ‘lovely Victorian street’ was quite possibly bought up by the council in the 60’s / 70’s when it was a rather less lovely street of slum houses owned by unscrupulous landlords – as was the previously privately owned now council estate that I live on.
    Over the years the ‘privatisation’ of my estate through both ‘right to buy sales’ and ‘regeneration’ has certainly made more properties available to buy, but many are owned by investors letting them for very high rents with no security for the tenants, (some people owning multiple properties) non resident 2nd homes, etc and the greater the proportion of privately owned properties the higher the prices go!
    Your percentages are not typical across Camden where tenures are divided almost in thirds 1/3 social rented (council and housing association) 1/3 privately rented 1/3 owner occupied. Planning regulations actually do encourage private ownership many regeneration projects on Camden housing estates do have a mix of tenures 50% private sales 50% affordable, but ‘affordable’ also has to include 50% ‘intermediate’ that is shared ownership, so therefore the majority of this new housing is actually privately owned.
    There is an odd double standard applied by some when I talk about living in a council flat the same people that judge me for living in so called subsidised rented accommodation think I am mad for not opting to take the real subsidy being offered approximately £100,000 discount if I decided to and could afford to buy my flat!

  8. PS: To already over long comment! The idea of selling off empty council properties high value or not on the open market has been tried in Camden and was very controversial, they were raising funds to modernise homes. Ultimately although you could make an economic argument for it there is always the whiff, intentional or not of social cleansing, and in Westminster there was the famous case of Shirley Porter and Gerrymandering. And where exactly in Camden would you build these cheaper homes? Luckily it is not easy for councils to sell off these public assets in this way, and if they do it wouldn’t help lower income buyers as they would have to raise as much money as possible.

  9. I was wondering how long it would be before council house tenants would be to blame. Why should they be punished for living in a now desirable area, despite living through the years when an area was a shithole? Unfortunately no one in politics seems to want to deal with the problem of housing.

    An article on a similar theme in Walthamstow (where I’m from originally) was a very good read too: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/stow_crazy_hype_and_inflation_in_e17

  10. My partner and I come from neither London nor money. After years of renting in the area and 18 months of scouring NW5 streets, we managed to buy a house here last November. It was in such a state that no lender would give us a mortgage, so we took the risk of convincing the owner to let us start repair works ourselves before we even owned it. After some very long days and stressful weeks, we got mortgage approval and moved in. Now, having emptied our bank accounts to make the purchase, we live in sturdy slippers to avoid nails and splinters, and caution guests against using the back toilet, which appears poised to fall off the house. We have never been happier.

    I was hurt and surprised by the exclusionist tone of this article, but immediately reassured by the thoughtfulness and courtesy of the comments. We came here because of the openness and vibrance the community exudes and are committed to contributing to that ourselves. The suggestion that we are a detriment to the character of this neighbourhood by virtue of our origins elsewhere and recent arrival flies in the face of the very thing that makes this place great: the sense that all are welcome.

    I do hope Tim can live in Kentish Town again, if he so chooses. I will welcome him when he returns. It would seem the Kentishtowner thing to do.

    1. Our local MP- Frank Dobson- is no sponger. He is an excellent and hard working MP who actually cares for all the people of his constituency and votes according to his principles and conscience on national issues also. He is squeaky clean on expenses and does not deserve to be the subject of an ignorant throwaway remark such as yours. What’s your problem with baby boomers? I am of the next generation to them and have not done so well financially as them, but that’s just the way things have gone. More useful to blame current mega global capitalism and oppose the plans to allow huge corporations to override the interests of the people of a country in pursuit of profit, and the increasing monetisation of the health and education services in this country.

Leave a Comment

27 thoughts on “Are we all being priced out?”

  1. The neighbourhood is definitely changing, but that’s the way of life in London. Neighbourhoods rise and fall in popularity and priciness – although admittedly in the last 20 years it’s all been one way but at some in the future it will reverse in certain places. In the meantime some people will win, and some people will lose. That’s life.

    If we try to stop those changes – and I’m not sure we could even if we wanted to – then the city will stagnate and become an undynamic museum piece, like central Paris or Rome. Those are great cities, but they’re not vibrant, exciting places where the world meets. I prefer London and Kentish Town as the latter, not the former.

    1. Hi Julianator,
      Thanks for your comments. Personally, although I think that if some people gain then its natural that the gain may come at the expense of others, I also believe strongly that we shouldn’t accept that there must be losers, and just metaphorically shrug our shoulders and count our blessings. There are means to try and support those who are less fortunate and help them out, and ultimately the ‘winners’ benefit from there being fewer losers too.

      I believe that economics is a human construct, it’s not ‘natural’, and it’s an lazy excuse for policy makers to just blame a ‘cycle’ as if there’s nothing they can do about it. The current housing crisis in London and the South East is entirely the result of government policies, it could, over time, be altered by various measures, some good, some not so good – taxes, building more housing stock, re-balancing public investment and creating more jobs to other parts of the country, banning immigration – lots of tough decisions and hard choices. But the current state we’re in is down to choices policy makers have made. Sadly our economy and the political class it supports is pretty much dependent now on housing debt, so there’s not much chance of things changing soon – there has to be a housing bubble or we’ll all go down. This long essay by James Meek is well worth sticking with, it explains a lot about that, better than I can. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n01/james-meek/where-will-we-live.
      Best, Tim

      1. Thanks for the thoughts. Tim. The problem is that stopping the mobility or limiting house price rises also creates losers: if we make it harder for people to move into the borough, they’re forced to live somewhere else that they may not like as much. If we try to restrict house price rises then people who have taken out mortgages already and put money into the houses will lose out, or if they’re Landlords, they won’t get a fair return on their investment. And if they can’t get a fair return then they won’t maintain their properties, which in time creates slums. Limiting prices rises tells builders not to build more, which in turn costs jobs in construction and limits housing stock even further.

        For what it’s worth, my belief is that high house prices tell us that we need to build more houses to bring house prices down. But we can’t build enough houses fast enough because of planning laws. So my solution would be deregulate a lot of planning, enabling construction to take place where and when it’s needed.

        But even that would create losers – people who already own houses, who thought they were doing the right thing by scrimping to pay huge prices.

        So I guess I’m saying: every policy creates losers and winners, so the question is really: who do you think deserves to be a winner and who deserves to be a loser?

        1. Hi Julianator,
          I don’t think that housing policy ought to be something that creates winners and losers – everyone has a right to shelter, it shouldn’t be so commodified so that people now see property/land as primarily an investment rather than a place to live.
          It should be possible for people who own property to continue to see it gain some value without it gaining value so quickly it excludes others. This is a London-centric problem; even in other parts of the UK housing is far more accessible and communities aren’t divided in to ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.
          Best, Tim

          1. Schnauzer Minelli

            I agree with Tim. I feel it very difficult to sympathize with people owning houses who are worried about the value of their houses not rising fast enough. A house should first and foremost be a place to live, not an investment. Now this may sound very harsh coming from someone who rents and is not tied into a mortgage but I think this is the root of the whole problem: people getting forced onto the housing ladder as if it was something positive to buy over-prized properties and get screwed over by the banks (and to some extent by the government).

  2. This article really struck a chord. I’ve lived in Kentish Town for a number of years now and have made it my home – I love it. My rent’s high, but just about affordable. But if I ever wish to own a property, it’ll never be here. It will break my heart when I have to move out – in some ways, I wish I was in this position 25-odd years ago, before property price rises completely excluded all but the wealthiest from buying around here.

  3. Sure this is a phenomenon going on across London, and indeed across many cities in the World. Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Oxford who has written a book about the UK housing crisis (quoted in yesterday’s Evening Standard), argues that the inequality and problems in the housing market are down to ‘rising greed and selfishness’. Self-interest is governing housing policy in our country. But are those the values we want our communities to be built on?

  4. Social change and gentrification: this has been going on in Kentish Town since houses / farms were first built in Kentish Town; in other words, it’s always been thus. I do think that like Notting H, Kentish Town’s superb location and stunning Victorian properties have meant its a bit of a ticking time bomb on this front. That said, the co-op at the foot of Patshull Road has just been sold to, wait for it…not Waitrose…not Sainsburies…but Lidl – a superb supermarket with products and prices that appeal to all. Perhaps we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and take stock of what we’ve got – a vibrant and varied community with one hell of a heart.
    Just one more thing, if so many areas are up and coming, where are those that are down and going?

    1. re: down and going – a rising tide floats all boats. For the last 30 years as London transformed from grotty and boring post-war capital to vibrant world city, driven by de-regulation and the boom in he finance industries, money and people have flowed in from all over the world.

      But at some point that trend will slow or reverse and at that point there’ll be a few neighbourhoods that will go down instead of up…

  5. This is not a new thing at all. I was born and breed in Kentish Town. My parents still live there but after I moved away to Uni moving back was just a fantasy dream and this was in the mid 1990’s. Makes me chuckle to see this written now as if you are the 1st generation for this to happen to. Sadly you are not, there are whole generations ahead of you already relegated to the dull dismal suburbs who will forever long to return home.

    Mollyxxx

    1. Hi Molly, thanks for your comment. You’re definitely right that people being priced out of areas is not a new thing at all, and it’s my fault if it came across that I was saying this is an entirely new problem.
      What I think is different though is the pace of recent increases in rent/house prices, general cost of living, compared to the downturn in people’s wages and average incomes – coupled with the fall in new housing stock coming on the market, and less support from Government to help people out. I don’t think it’s never been hard for people, but I do think the evidence suggests it’s even harder now, for even more people, than it was before. This website I think has some interesting data on recent trends http://www.crumbsforlondon.org.uk/.
      Best, Tim

  6. There is another factor that effects housing prices that hasn’t been mentioned. Scarcity. From personal experience I know that the lovely Victorian road we live on is 70% owned by the council, 30% private. So, in reality there is hardly any housing stock on the market. Who suffers in this climate? People who aren’t given state support.

    We bought here 3 years ago. We’re not foreign millionaires. We’re a young couple with our first child on the way. We are mortgaged to the hilt and work 3 jobs between the two of us. We love the area but can’t help but feel something isn’t quite right about the fact that in a few years when we have a family, the only houses suitable for us will cost in the region of a million pounds, while we see our state supported neighbours with five kids living in houses we can only ever dream about living in.

    If the council allowed the area to be slightly more mixed, ie, 60% council 40% private or even a 50/50 split, the effect on housing prices would be that they would go down as there wouldn’t be so many people looking at so few houses. Also, the money the council could generate by selling off some expensive to maintain period properties could be used to build new social housing in the area for greater numbers of people. Is it really fair that people who work hard but don’t earn that much are pushed out in favour of those living from the state?

    1. So you are advocating pushing people who have made their lives in Kentish Town out because it has become a desirable place to live?

      If so, how would that work? At what point would tenants in an area be evicted so more wealthy folks could move in?

    2. 100% agree. It’s important that the area remains mixed, but the fact is we are very close to a situation where you can only now move to KT if you are very wealthy indeed or very poor indeed (and therefore eligible for council housing). That locks out the vast majority of the population and will damage the area more than anything else.

      The council doesn’t need to push people out but it should seek to sell off certain high-value properties as their tenancies end (through death or people leaving the area). and use the cash to build higher-density modern housing elsewhere in the area. That would help the area to stay fresh while encouraging aspiration and enabling young families to move in.

      1. Interesting idea, but why would it be restricted to high value properties? That would still leave the middle income group priced out.

        It’s worth noting that when a house on a popular road went on sale a couple of weeks ago 70 people went to see it and it eventually sold for 25% over the asking price, so the council couldn’t release stock quickly enough to bring prices down.

        Finally I wonder if there is a reason why this isn’t already happening, I’m sure Camden could do with the money.

        1. Fair point about high-value…i was just thinking that selling a handful of high-value properties is less likely to reduce council housing stock than selling lots of mid-value ones. But then you end up in the situation where selling the expensive stuff doesn’t make it easier for the middle incomes families to move in. Perhaps there should be a ratio for guidance – e.g to justify a sale of a house the money raised would have to add more capacity than was lost? e.g. a sale of a 1 bed flat would have to raise enough money to build a a property that could house more than one person?

          re: impacting prices – bear in mind also that there’s a double whammy if the rue above was followed: one more house in the market but also extra council housing provision created which removes someone from the lower end of the market too.

          There’s a simple reason why this isn’t happening: Labour ran in the last local elections on a promise not to sell any council housing stock. There’s no real reason for them to have promised this, except to shore up their vote amongst some of our local champagne socialists.

    3. Same in Hackney. 40% of the stock is social housing. The shortage of private houses (partly due to the high % of social housing) really pushes up the price of the remaining stock. It’s pretty bizarre lying in a street where a long-term unemployed person gets to live in a very valuable home on full benefits, whilst a private tenant or homeowner, in an identical property next door, has to works all hours to get by, and often pays 4 times as much for their efforts!

  7. @tally – Scarcity is a problem no doubt and as Kentish town housing campaigner the late Alan Walters used to say ‘Scarcity breeds scapegoats’. The lack of affordable housing is not the fault of your neighbours who live in council housing. The stock of council housing has massively decreased in the past decades since ‘right to buy’ was introduced. Unless your neighbours are recieving housing benefit they are not ‘living from the state’. If some of them do get housing benefit at least the money is then staying in the housing system rather than lining the pockets of, or paying the mortgage of private landlords and property investors.
    Council housing rents are paid into something called the Housing Revenue Account from which management and maintenance costs are paid, it is a general misconception that somehow council housing costs are paid from general taxation – wrong. Central government over the years have in fact ‘top sliced’ this fund, (kept some of the money) and also prevented councils from being able to reinvest receipts from ‘right to buy’ sales in more housing.
    The sale of council housing does not make more affordable housing available quite the reverse. In the past when there was more available it was the ‘working poor’ who were often given priority for social housing. Your ‘lovely Victorian street’ was quite possibly bought up by the council in the 60’s / 70’s when it was a rather less lovely street of slum houses owned by unscrupulous landlords – as was the previously privately owned now council estate that I live on.
    Over the years the ‘privatisation’ of my estate through both ‘right to buy sales’ and ‘regeneration’ has certainly made more properties available to buy, but many are owned by investors letting them for very high rents with no security for the tenants, (some people owning multiple properties) non resident 2nd homes, etc and the greater the proportion of privately owned properties the higher the prices go!
    Your percentages are not typical across Camden where tenures are divided almost in thirds 1/3 social rented (council and housing association) 1/3 privately rented 1/3 owner occupied. Planning regulations actually do encourage private ownership many regeneration projects on Camden housing estates do have a mix of tenures 50% private sales 50% affordable, but ‘affordable’ also has to include 50% ‘intermediate’ that is shared ownership, so therefore the majority of this new housing is actually privately owned.
    There is an odd double standard applied by some when I talk about living in a council flat the same people that judge me for living in so called subsidised rented accommodation think I am mad for not opting to take the real subsidy being offered approximately £100,000 discount if I decided to and could afford to buy my flat!

  8. PS: To already over long comment! The idea of selling off empty council properties high value or not on the open market has been tried in Camden and was very controversial, they were raising funds to modernise homes. Ultimately although you could make an economic argument for it there is always the whiff, intentional or not of social cleansing, and in Westminster there was the famous case of Shirley Porter and Gerrymandering. And where exactly in Camden would you build these cheaper homes? Luckily it is not easy for councils to sell off these public assets in this way, and if they do it wouldn’t help lower income buyers as they would have to raise as much money as possible.

  9. I was wondering how long it would be before council house tenants would be to blame. Why should they be punished for living in a now desirable area, despite living through the years when an area was a shithole? Unfortunately no one in politics seems to want to deal with the problem of housing.

    An article on a similar theme in Walthamstow (where I’m from originally) was a very good read too: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/stow_crazy_hype_and_inflation_in_e17

  10. My partner and I come from neither London nor money. After years of renting in the area and 18 months of scouring NW5 streets, we managed to buy a house here last November. It was in such a state that no lender would give us a mortgage, so we took the risk of convincing the owner to let us start repair works ourselves before we even owned it. After some very long days and stressful weeks, we got mortgage approval and moved in. Now, having emptied our bank accounts to make the purchase, we live in sturdy slippers to avoid nails and splinters, and caution guests against using the back toilet, which appears poised to fall off the house. We have never been happier.

    I was hurt and surprised by the exclusionist tone of this article, but immediately reassured by the thoughtfulness and courtesy of the comments. We came here because of the openness and vibrance the community exudes and are committed to contributing to that ourselves. The suggestion that we are a detriment to the character of this neighbourhood by virtue of our origins elsewhere and recent arrival flies in the face of the very thing that makes this place great: the sense that all are welcome.

    I do hope Tim can live in Kentish Town again, if he so chooses. I will welcome him when he returns. It would seem the Kentishtowner thing to do.

    1. Our local MP- Frank Dobson- is no sponger. He is an excellent and hard working MP who actually cares for all the people of his constituency and votes according to his principles and conscience on national issues also. He is squeaky clean on expenses and does not deserve to be the subject of an ignorant throwaway remark such as yours. What’s your problem with baby boomers? I am of the next generation to them and have not done so well financially as them, but that’s just the way things have gone. More useful to blame current mega global capitalism and oppose the plans to allow huge corporations to override the interests of the people of a country in pursuit of profit, and the increasing monetisation of the health and education services in this country.

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