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New flats built for private sale in Camden may be reallocated to house refugees

A CGI of Highgate Newtown Community Centre when plans were submitted for approval in 2016 (RCKa)
A CGI of Highgate Newtown Community Centre when plans were submitted for approval in 2016 (RCKa)

Over 40 new-build flats originally intended for private sale are under consideration to be re-allocated as housing for Afghan refugees as the Londonproperty market hits a rocky patch.

The homes on the Highgate Newtown Community Centre site were originally intended for private sale to fund Camden council’s redevelopment schemes. But the dual impact of a stagnant housing market and increased building costs mean it is harder for councils to guarantee this profit from private housing.

Instead, the Camden New Journal reported that the homes are now being taken off the private market and are likely to be given to Afghan refugees, many of whom risked their lives working with the British as translators, doctors, special forces, civil servants and journalists, among other roles.

Since fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, they have been living in ‘bridging’ hotels while the government finds somewhere more permanent for them.

Councillor Georgia Gould said that the Highgate Newtown development had been built so as to be “flexible” in use and now the funding was in place to create a permanent base in the city for those who had fled to the UK.

She added that the council still remained committed to buying homes for Camden families suffering from homelessness and overcrowding.

“Our community centre and partners will be delighted to welcome the new residents into the heart of our community and to involve them in our programme of activity in any ways that can support them to settle and thrive,” said Andrew Sanalitro, director of the HNCC.

“This will be an exciting and positive development for our neighbourhood.”

Camden, which is dubbed a ‘borough of sanctuary’ for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict with Russia, is the first council to confirm its plans to take private houses off the market so as to house refugees, but it’s unlikely to be the last.

A fortnight ago, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced £126m of funding for up to 600 new homes for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees.

The Refugee Housing Programme will fund new home acquisitions, refurbishing existing or newly acquired homes and purchasing new-build properties or developing new homes.

“I’m committed to supporting refugees who have come here to rebuild their lives and do everything I can to help them thrive in their local community. That’s why I’ve announced a new programme which will see City Hall deliver up to 600 affordable homes for Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing conflict, giving those who have been through such harrowing upheaval the stability they deserve,” said Sadiq Khan.

In the longer term, when no longer needed, homes delivered through the RHP scheme will be returned to councils and housing associations to become social or affordable rented homes for those Londoners on the housing waiting list or those who require temporary accommodation.