Making a "slum" into family homes again
The first Camden family to return to a completely refurbished example of early social housing was celebrating today (8 May 2007) after getting hold of the keys to their new home.
Mr Maklish Miah and his family will shortly move into their new 4-bed home in Levita House, King’s Cross. Their home is one of 44 new family homes created after a £6 million transformation of two blocks (nos. 61-133) of the grade II listed estate.
The family moved out of Levita House in November 2004 ahead of the renovation work. The building had fallen into disrepair, with broken windows, leaking roofs and damp throughout. The inside of the building has now been completely transformed to provide the much needed larger family homes. They will all have new kitchens, bathrooms, and a new environmentally friendly heating system.
Levita House was originally built in the 1920s as part of slum clearances. When it was finished the estate included many innovative features for the time, such as central heating and combining private and ‘working class’ housing.
The 44 family homes for rent were created from 66 cramped damp and outmoded flats in the original building. Residents will also benefit from new double glazed windows, something rarely approved for listed buildings. Two new lifts and extra security measures will make the whole estate safer for residents.
Helena Begum (22), Mr Miah’s daughter, said: “Our old home was cramped and cold, really awful. The windows needed replacing and the walls were all damaged. There are five of us in all, including my two grown up brothers and the new home is going to be brilliant. Most importantly it will make a big difference to my father with a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor. His health means he used to find it a real struggle to make it up and down the stairs.”
Camden Council’s Executive Member for Housing, Cllr Chris Naylor handed the family the keys to their new home on Tuesday 8 May. He said:
“I’d like to wish Mr Miah and his family all the best and many years of happiness in their new home. This is a fantastic example of how to transform a run down estate to make it fit for the 21st century and make more homes for our overcrowded families.
“We’ve spent £6 million on 44 homes, but the sad reality is that there are thousands of our tenants living on estates that desperately need this kind of transformation. We do not have the money to tackle those estates, and despite years of pressure we have not received a penny in extra help from central government. We can’t let this continue. We must work with tenants living on estates with similarly complex challenges to come up with a solution that works to give them the decent homes they deserve.”
Notes to Editors
Levita House was refurbished as part of the council’s Raising the Standard programmed to improve council housing across the borough.
Camden Council currently faces a £242 million shortfall in the money it needs to pay for repairs and maintenance to its homes. The council recently announced a three-pronged proposal, to bridge this gap if lobbying central government for extra funds does not work. This is:
- Scaling down the existing refurbishment programme to focus on basics like rewiring, lifts, heating and kitchens and spread the benefits more widely
- Working with tenants on key estates to find ways to tackle complex repairs, structural problems and to secure the necessary funding
- Raising cash by selling off a small proportion of empty homes and commercial properties, with an initial pilot to raise £11 million from the sale of about 50 properties.
Facts about Levita House
Levita House was built between 1928 and 1937 by London County Council’s architects department. It is next to the British Library and part of the Ossulston Estate.
It was originally built as part of a bid to clear the slums of the area. It included a range of new ideas and was considered a landmark in British planning at the time. These included the first ever central heating system installed by the LCC, lift access, refuse disposal systems, the combination of private and ‘working class’ housing with commercial units, a children’s playing area, and a garage.
Named after Colonel Levita, the chairman of LCC’s Housing committee during the 1920s, it is regarded as one of the LCC’s most distinguished buildings. The architect was George Topham-Forrest and the building has been compared to that of the Karl Mark Hof in Vienna.
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