Southwark starts placing homeless in Belsize Park hostel given up by Camden

Town Hall says it has more 'in borough temporary accommodation homes' than before

Thursday, 21st July — By Harry Taylor

englands lane hostel

Camden stopped using the England’s Lane hostel last year

A TEMPORARY accommodation block in Belsize Park that was controversially closed last year has been brought back into use by a council from south London.

The England’s Lane hostel was used by Camden to house people and families in urgent need of somewhere to live.

It was closed in March 2021 as Camden ended its long-term contract with the block’s owner, Akelius. Residents at the time had complained about having to move some distance away from Camden.

At the time, the Town Hall justified the move by saying alternative provision was being made in Chester Road and Camden Road. Southwark Council has now moved to use the building and told the New Journal that it had started housing residents there in March. It has a three-year lease on the block, which has 161 rooms.

A spokesperson said it would mainly be used for housing parents with young children, single women and disabled people.

“Sadly, demand for temporary accommodation outweighs supply in Southwark and the private market is extremely competitive,” they said. “This drives up the cost of temporary accommodation and has forced us to look outside of the borough.”

Councillor Tom Simon, the leader of the opposition

Before residents had been evicted by Camden, they had complained about problems with damp, cockroaches and disrepair. Southwark said it had carried out refurbishments before moving residents in and security measures were in place.

Leader of the opposition and Lib Dem Belsize councillor Tom Simon said: “I was really surprised when I saw it had reopened for the same purpose Camden had been using it for.

“When we were told about it closing, adequate replacement provision was not available for the often vulnerable residents that had to move out. The new provision wasn’t ready then and it still isn’t ready, with Camden Road still unfinished.”

He added: “Anecdotally, I know from my casework that we are seeing an increased demand for temporary accommodation, from people in desperate need, and that will continue with the cost of living crisis.

“Currently the council is often having to house them in the private sector or in hotels, which is both expensive for the council and disruptive to their lives. The decision to close England’s Lane when other services aren’t ready, meaning it is now being used by another council, needs to be looked at.”

Camden’s housing chief Labour councillor Meric Apak said: “England’s Lane hostel provided much-needed temporary accommodation to thousands of families over many years but ending the lease has since freed up resources to enable us to make a significant investment in converting two other council hostels that we do own, to provide larger rooms and better facilities for the residents.”

He added: “We are also investing a significant amount of funding in our temporary accommodation purchasing programme, through which we are buying back a number of council homes that had previously been bought under the Right to Buy and using these to provide self-contained, high quality temporary accommodation for our homeless families.

“As result of this programme we will have a higher number of in-borough temporary accommodation homes than we had when we had the lease for England’s Lane.”

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