'A town where only the rich can live'- concern over lack of social housing in Barnet

Cllr Tom Davey

Cllr Tom Davey

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Overcrowding in Barnet demands a more “ambitious” housing programme - despite the approval of 27 new homes, according to a councillor.

Social housing landlord Barnet Homes is set to build new flats and houses on disused sites in Tarling Road, Haldane Close, Brent Place and Bedford Road.

It forms part of a wider scheme to build 28,000 new homes by 2025, of which 40 per cent will be designated 'affordable'.

Councillor Ross Houston, a Labour member of Barnet Borough Council's housing committee, told the Times Series: “It’s obviously fantastic we are building new social houses.

“Barnet is the second biggest London borough and other councils have far more ambitious programmes than we do, so we need to step up to the mark.

“The shortage of affordable homes produces a cycle of debt, eviction and homelessness which costs the council more in the long run.”

At the start of the year, the council had overspent £729,000 of its temporary accommodation budget as people were placed out of the borough and into temporary hotels.

Cllr Houston, who represents the West Finchley ward, added: “In this day and age some people can only survive in London because of council housing. It risks becoming a town only the rich can live in.”

Under radical regeneration schemes, dilapidated housing estates, including West Hendon and Grahame Park, are set to be demolished and rebuilt.

Many currently living in those areas will be moved out of the borough they have called home for the past 20 years.

Under current rules, residents are granted tenancies lasting between two and five years, or in certain cases, 12 months to life.

However, members of Barnet Action Housing Group want to see non-secure tenancies abolished from all future contracts.

In April, they protested as Boris Johnson as visited the first three homes to be built in Barnet in 20 years, in Alexandra Road, Muswell Hill.

Janette Ewans, part of the group, said: “We’re not against regeneration but residents who want to stay in their home a few years down the line should be allowed to stay.

“We think a council house should be a home for life.”

Cllr Tom Davey, chairman of the housing committee, criticised the Labour group for failing to come up with a housing plan.

He said: “We plan to deliver affordable homes on under-utilised sites which are self funded, and with the help of residents.

“This is a stark contrast to Labour who say they want more social housing, yet despite being asked in full council and various committees in the past 18 months, have failed to say where a single site would be, how many homes would be there and how it would be funded.

“Cllr Houston has not offered any views on what a more ambitious programme might be – this is standard rhetoric from a Labour group in the final death throes of its current leadership.”

Comments (7)

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3:58pm Wed 6 Aug 14

harvey_uk says...

What, just a slight overspend of almost £729,000, how about someone in the accounts department loose their job for that? Only UK Nationals and immigrants who have paid in to the system for 5 years at least should be entitled to any benefits.
What, just a slight overspend of almost £729,000, how about someone in the accounts department loose their job for that? Only UK Nationals and immigrants who have paid in to the system for 5 years at least should be entitled to any benefits. harvey_uk
  • Score: 5

4:10pm Wed 6 Aug 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

The outmoded concept of a "council house for life" puts the whole system at risk. How can people who have a genuine, immediate need for housing possibly get somewhere if those who were in the same situation a few years ago refuse to move on?

Social housing should be for the most vulnerable to get back on their feet with a bit of help from the state. Once they have done so, they should be required to hand the property on to someone who needs it more, get out and find their own place. Why should they benefit from permanent state assistance at everyone else's expense when there's such a scarcity of property in this overcrowded city?
The outmoded concept of a "council house for life" puts the whole system at risk. How can people who have a genuine, immediate need for housing possibly get somewhere if those who were in the same situation a few years ago refuse to move on? Social housing should be for the most vulnerable to get back on their feet with a bit of help from the state. Once they have done so, they should be required to hand the property on to someone who needs it more, get out and find their own place. Why should they benefit from permanent state assistance at everyone else's expense when there's such a scarcity of property in this overcrowded city? AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -6

8:15pm Wed 6 Aug 14

Barnet Parker says...

Why bothering commemorating the outbreak of WWI if the concept of 'Homes for Heroes' is outmoded?
Why bothering commemorating the outbreak of WWI if the concept of 'Homes for Heroes' is outmoded? Barnet Parker
  • Score: 5

12:04pm Thu 7 Aug 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

My point is that entitlement to social housing should last as long as the person needs it. Once they stop needing it, they should be encouraged to make their own arrangements.

If a vulnerable war veteran (or anyone else for that matter) has a genuinely permanent need for housing, then they should be provided with that housing on a permanent basis.

Barnet Parker - I'm afraid I don't understand your comment. Are you really questioning the value of commemorating the sacrifices of soldiers in WWI? I don't think you would be so flippant if you'd been alive at the time.
My point is that entitlement to social housing should last as long as the person needs it. Once they stop needing it, they should be encouraged to make their own arrangements. If a vulnerable war veteran (or anyone else for that matter) has a genuinely permanent need for housing, then they should be provided with that housing on a permanent basis. Barnet Parker - I'm afraid I don't understand your comment. Are you really questioning the value of commemorating the sacrifices of soldiers in WWI? I don't think you would be so flippant if you'd been alive at the time. AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -2

6:32pm Fri 8 Aug 14

Jon10 says...

I stand to be corrected, but isn't the key difference between building social housing in, say, the 1920s, and now is the cost of land?

Isn't it technically possible to build and rent social housing at low cost on public land, if the value of the land is counted to be zero?

That is, it is a political choice not to do that, based around the demise of much of a public-interest ethos, and demands that the public-sector must monetise all its disposable assets.

I also cannot see developers actually wanting a severe housing shortage to end, since they are doing very well out of the shortage, and would not want to see lower prices.

Why would it matter if, say, 20 or 30% of all housing was social? Would it sap the moral backbone of the country? Destroy self-reliance? Lower the growth rate of the country? This does not have to repeat the mistakes of large estates, approved by inexperienced and perhaps untalented councillors in years gone by.

In practice, it would certainly dramatically lower the selling price of the rest of the housing sector, due to the "competition".

And local authority housing would probably be well designed and well built, as it was post-war, until the system building salesmen flogged their awful designs and methods.
I stand to be corrected, but isn't the key difference between building social housing in, say, the 1920s, and now is the cost of land? Isn't it technically possible to build and rent social housing at low cost on public land, if the value of the land is counted to be zero? That is, it is a political choice not to do that, based around the demise of much of a public-interest ethos, and demands that the public-sector must monetise all its disposable assets. I also cannot see developers actually wanting a severe housing shortage to end, since they are doing very well out of the shortage, and would not want to see lower prices. Why would it matter if, say, 20 or 30% of all housing was social? Would it sap the moral backbone of the country? Destroy self-reliance? Lower the growth rate of the country? This does not have to repeat the mistakes of large estates, approved by inexperienced and perhaps untalented councillors in years gone by. In practice, it would certainly dramatically lower the selling price of the rest of the housing sector, due to the "competition". And local authority housing would probably be well designed and well built, as it was post-war, until the system building salesmen flogged their awful designs and methods. Jon10
  • Score: 4

2:44pm Tue 12 Aug 14

derrickchung says...

It was a Labour initiative to regenerate four areas in Barnet , that is continuing. West Hendon has always been a prime target site for developers due to its cite and centralised location. Both the previous and present plans were questioned by the Residents Association and other local residents to the extent that petitions were submitted, but to no avail. The scheme today will see an increase from 680 home units to 2000. The Good, will see a transformation of older homes being replaced by new ones. The Bad, is that the homes were badly managed and maintained, in order to justify demolition. The Ugly, is that approximately 256 non secure tenants , some having lived here for more than 14 years wont be rehoused here, as there is no agreement between LBB and the developers to do so, where to is still unknown. Secure tenants are also faced with a problem as the number of council homes will be far less than the original number, as there will not be any social homes available for rent . Leaseholders and freeholders having already been served with CPOs are finding that the offer will not allow them to meet any of the options available without incurring further debts that will inevitable lead to home losses. "Affordable" homes is a term that applies to landlords and not tenants. The loss of council homes is to accommodate the "luxury" apartments ( 26 & 29 storeys) destined for the private sector as they seem to be the right type of residents to fit Barnet's criteria. York Memorial Park will disappear. The Welsh Harp a SSSI wild life habitat area will see the disappearance of much of its wild life. The overdevelopment , overpopulating of the area in an already fragmented infrastructure is being overlooked. Its a gain for some at a loss to many that can ill afford.
It was a Labour initiative to regenerate four areas in Barnet , that is continuing. West Hendon has always been a prime target site for developers due to its cite and centralised location. Both the previous and present plans were questioned by the Residents Association and other local residents to the extent that petitions were submitted, but to no avail. The scheme today will see an increase from 680 home units to 2000. The Good, will see a transformation of older homes being replaced by new ones. The Bad, is that the homes were badly managed and maintained, in order to justify demolition. The Ugly, is that approximately 256 non secure tenants , some having lived here for more than 14 years wont be rehoused here, as there is no agreement between LBB and the developers to do so, where to is still unknown. Secure tenants are also faced with a problem as the number of council homes will be far less than the original number, as there will not be any social homes available for rent . Leaseholders and freeholders having already been served with CPOs are finding that the offer will not allow them to meet any of the options available without incurring further debts that will inevitable lead to home losses. "Affordable" homes is a term that applies to landlords and not tenants. The loss of council homes is to accommodate the "luxury" apartments ( 26 & 29 storeys) destined for the private sector as they seem to be the right type of residents to fit Barnet's criteria. York Memorial Park will disappear. The Welsh Harp a SSSI wild life habitat area will see the disappearance of much of its wild life. The overdevelopment , overpopulating of the area in an already fragmented infrastructure is being overlooked. Its a gain for some at a loss to many that can ill afford. derrickchung
  • Score: 1

10:38pm Tue 12 Aug 14

nlygo says...

The Welsh Harp will remain a site of SSSI
The Welsh Harp will remain a site of SSSI nlygo
  • Score: 0

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