CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Council house left empty for three years

Councillor: 'With tens of thousands of people on our social housing waiting list, our council homes should never be left empty this long'

14 February, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Camden Council has blamed ‘structural issues’

A FOUR-BEDROOM council house has sat empty for three years while thousands languish on the housing waiting list.

The Fortune Green property would be perfect for many families but neighbours and councillors appealing for repair work have hit a brick wall. The council says complex structural problems are to blame but surveys suggest basic tree removal works are all that is required.

Phil Sommerich, who lives nearby, said: “Four-bedroom houses are in huge demand by people on the council waiting list and it is appalling that Camden’s housing staff feel able to ignore ­constituency queries from councillors, let alone allow a valuable resource to decay. Most of the new-builds – that Camden is rightly proud of – are two and three-bedroom flats, and not suitable for ­families.

“Camden appointed a consultant surveyor and engineer who reported that the problem was subsidence caused by unmanaged trees in that property and a neighbouring one. “They would need to take the trees out, do decoration – and work to restore three years of neglect, but, bang for your buck, I would say it was worth it.”

Mr Sommerich added: “Camden bought the house for £21,000. They have that investment in it. There is money there, it’s just how they spend it. I would say the most efficient way to bring in money would be to bring it back into use. I also have a horrible feeling it’s not the only one.” Camden Council last year announced a £24million pot to buy back properties sold under the “right to buy” policy to help struggling families. A family of five lived in the house for more than 30 years until February 2017, when the last remaining tenant left to live elsewhere.

Fortune Green councillor Lorna Russell said: “With tens of thousands of people on our social housing waiting list, our council homes should never be left empty this long, and certainly not without explanation. “I hope the council act quickly to carry out any remaining repairs to the property so that it can be offered to a new family as soon as possible.”

Camden Council said: “We recognise the importance of having every council-owned property available to Camden families who remain in need of improved housing. However, complex structural issues have been identified at this property that require careful attention so that the home can then be refurbished to the standard that we are committed to delivering across all of Camden’s council housing.”

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