The Alexandra Road Estate: An Interesting Experiment

The Alexandra Road Estate: An Interesting Experiment

Municipal Dreams

In the sixties, London was swinging and Harold Wilson had promised a new Britain forged in the ‘white heat’ of a technological revolution.  That may have been hype but something of it resonates when you look at Camden’s Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate – Alexandra Road or even Rowley Way to its friends.  There was hope in the air and Camden was well placed to capture it.

The Metropolitan Borough of Camden was formed in 1964 and comprised the former boroughs of Hampstead, Holborn and St Pancras – respectively intellectual, wealthy and radical. It was also the third richest borough in London in terms of rateable value.(1)  Add the politics of a young  and ambitious Labour council, for whom ‘the main aim was more housing – beginning and end’ and conscious of its flagship role, and that made for some of the most exciting council housing of modern times.(2)

Rowley Way © Martin Charles Rowley Way in…

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Urban Europe

Urban Europe, a comparative report on cities in Europe, was recently published. According to CityLab the summary of the report is

If you want to live in a European city where residents think affordable housing is easy to come by, avoid London and head for Ljubljana. That’s one of the possible conclusions to draw from a massive new report on European cities published by the E.U. (CityLab)

Although the report is not just about the housing issues, CityLab analysis has a point: “According to Eurostat’s 2015 Urban Europe report [PDF], published this week, most European big city residents feel that decent housing they can afford is increasingly hard to come by.”

Have a look at the spike below:


Of course, it shows the change in the cost of living in London!

Click here for checking the report.

UK Housing Crisis: (Anti)Social Housing Associations’ New Low

UK housing crisis is not news for many living in the UK and also for many working on housing. It is mostly discussed as a problem of deficiency of the quantity of housing: There is not enough number of houses, soo let’s build more and more. However, it is not just quantity, but the quality of housing, especially newly built ones are crumbling as well.


According to Guardian investigation, people living in housing projects built by Catalyst, Sanctuary, Notting Hill Housing, Wandle, and the One Housing Group raised that major maintenance issues are not tackled such as damp,  rat infestation, the lifts left broken for a week or so, security failures, and no hot water.

The situation getting worse when hearing more stories from people living in houses built and run by housing associations:

“When we moved in, we turned on the taps in the kitchen sink and water flooded everywhere, including into the flat below us. And the boiler went almost immediately. We’d be without hot water for two, three weeks at a time. At one point, three flats would give each other their kettles so we could run ourselves a bath.” (Guardian)

Orchard Village has been the focus of hundreds of complaints from its residents. These include extensive leaks, damp and mould, staircases that have come away from walls, broken heating systems, inadequate fire-proofing and absent insulation. People are also concerned about alleged high levels of methane and hydrogen sulphide, which some claim may have had a direct impact on their health. (Harris)

Residents have a dossier of problems drawn from more than 50 homes: “holes in roof of landings”, “mould in bedroom”, “balcony door broken”, “cold house”, “lawn dying after no drainage installed”, “no fire break in between properties”. Some annual heating and hot water bills are said to be three times more than people were led to expect. There are also endless claims about treatment of residents by Circle and its contractors: “Waited three years for repair of stairs”; “staff ignore telephone conversations”; “no response to complaints”. (Guardian)

The problems have roots in the public-private characteristics of housing associations which are promoted as a ‘third-way’ solution. The associations are supported by public money, however, act as private developers. Kind of best of both, aren’t they? Well, the result is low quality and unhealthy buildings, nearly non-maintenance, and angry residents.

Note: Guardian is still continuing the investigation on problems in the housing schemes developed by housing associations. If you experience one refer to the link.

From Billboards to Street Charts: Housing Crisis in UK

The housing crisis in the UK is visible all over the cities. It is turning to be a human disaster as Guardian article defines:

The housing crisis is an accelerating human disaster. It is creating exploitative landlords, overcrowding and poor-quality homes. Private renters spend 40% of their income on housing. It is shocking that many people in their 20s now regard it as an accepted fact that they will never have much by way of a home. (Guardian)

Check the full story here.

Just Fair Consortium, which is formed by charities and institutions including Amnesty International UK, Oxfam and Unicef UK, defines this housing crisis as in breach of human right in its report.

While in many cases it is regarded as a matter of quantity, the issue is deeper than that. It is also a matter of quality of living. For example,

The Citizens Advice study says 740,000 households in England live in privately rented homes which present a severe threat to tenants’ health from problems like damp and rat infestations. (BBC)

Protests and rallies are taken place in London as CityLab points out that they are bot just about affordable housing but about right to stay in London. In addition to recent protests, people are responding this crisis in very creative ways.

London is Changing project strikingly shows the effects of the crisis to the daily life of people living in London.

If you are relocating out of London, how do you feel about it? Bitter, excited, saddened or relieved? (Guardian)

‘I feel I’m being forced out’: London billboards highlight stories of relocation
The London is Changing project is bringing the voices of those affected by the housing crisis to the city’s billboards – and our readers have been involved. Here are some of their stories: from the optimistic to the heartbroken. Check here for full story.


These street charts may be the best graphs explaining the severity of the crisis and protesting it:

Arman Naji, the creator, came up with the idea after renting in Hackney, east London for four years after moving from Canada. An advertising creative, Naji used utility boxes around the capital to demonstrate how unaffordable and insecure housing is in London. (Guardian)

Image Credit: Roberta Schmidt and Duarte Carrilho da Graça