Briefing paper produced by Haringey Defend Council Housing for the Selby Trust 'Race to Equality' event on Friday 22nd May 2015.
The Equalities Impact Assessment
A devastating Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) throws new light on Haringey Council’s ambitious, market-led housing plans. There is a target of nearly 20,000 high-quality new homes to be built by 2026; while 4,000 homes are at risk of demolition, via the ‘renewal’ of council estates at much higher densities.
The EqIA shows that while council housing and old-style housing association rent are affordable for people on median incomes in the borough, owner-occupation, private rent, shared–ownership, and the new 80%-market-rent product are all unaffordable. These latter are the very tenures being promoted for estate renewals, and also for development sites which were not previously in use for housing.
However the EqIA does not give an accurate picture of affordability problems, because median incomes in Tottenham, where most of the new developments are to be located, are only 70% of the borough median. There is no assessment of affordability for those who have lower than median incomes, and no data is given for the median incomes of black and ethnic minority households.
The EqIA shows that buyers of shared ownership schemes in Tottenham are mainly white people, and often from outside the area; and ‘there is a possibility that over time Black residents in Haringey may not benefit from the plans to build more homes in the borough through promoting affordable home ownership in east Haringey’. The startling proposed ‘mitigation’ is that:
'The ability of local people to afford the new homes being built, especially in the east of the borough, is dependent on them accessing jobs and also increasing their incomes to a sufficient level to afford the new homes on offer as a result.
'It is planned to change the profile of Haringey-based jobs so that retail and public sector employment are less dominant, and there is a better range of jobs, including a greater proportion of jobs in more highly-skilled sectors, such as sustainable technology, digital design and skilled/ craft manufacturing'.
There is no intention in these plans to provide really-affordable permanent housing for the 5,600 households on Haringey’s waiting list, or the 1,800 households in temporary accommodation. Instead, black people and the poor must get high-flying, high-tech jobs, to solve the problems that housing policy made.
The Labour Party Emergency Resolution
The following Emergency Resolution was passed unanimously by the General Committee (GC) of Tottenham Constituency Labour Party on 25 March 2015:
“This GC expresses concerns about the findings of the Council’s Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) of the Draft Housing Strategy. It clearly states that there is a “possibility, over time, Black residents of Haringey may not benefit from the plans to build more homes in the borough through promoting affordable home ownership in the east of Haringey”.
Despite what the council state on their website about needing to “consider” the EqIA in their decisions, it is in fact a ‘public sector equality duty under the 2010 Equality Act’ not just to “consider”, but to “eliminate unlawful discrimination” and “advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic (i.e. Race) and those who do not”.
This GC is concerned the mitigation has placed the onus on “Black Residents” to “increase their income” to be able to afford the new homes on offer and not required or considered what the council should be doing to enable equality of opportunity and eliminate discrimination. The GC requires an urgent review and response so not to disadvantage residents based upon race and their related socio-economic status”.
Cllr Alan Strickland’s Letter
Councillor Alan Strickland, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, wrote to Haringey Defend Council Housing on 10 April. His letter included these points:
'A resident’s ability to access a particular type of housing relies on their income and circumstances. The assessment finds that black residents will receive significant support from the council’s housing approach, through council housing, temporary accommodation and HMO [houses in multiple occupation] licensing, but that black and minority ethnic groups tend to be less able to afford other housing options such as shared ownership homes.
'Claims made by some local campaigners that the council’s housing approach would discriminate against black residents are clearly disproved by the facts in the equalities assessment. The assessment finds that black residents receive significant support through council housing - 18% of Haringey residents are black, but 34% of Haringey’s council housing is allocated to black residents. Black residents also benefit most from support provided through temporary accommodation - the biggest single group provided with temporary accommodation by the council are black female households (36% of all temporary accommodation placements)'.
Such complacency is sadly reminiscent of some attitudes of elected councillors and council officers in the 1980s and earlier.
The Draft Local Plan
Haringey Council’s private sector led regeneration plans have the effect of rolling-back the rights and security of poorer and socially-excluded groups of residents.
The ‘Proposed Alterations to Haringey’s Local Plan: Strategic Policies’ (February 2015) cuts affordable housing quotas for new housing developments from 50% to 40% (page 26). Furthermore, on page 27 we read that:
Re-provision of low quality existing council housing with an equal quantum (on a habitable rooms basis) of higher quality modern social housing is not a financially viable option. The building of higher density mixed tenure developments, which increase the quality and range of the affordable housing options for local people is likely to be the only realistic options, and even then, will require significant public subsidy [and] may require flexible application of normal planning policy expectations for affordable housing provision.
So developers are privileged to evade with impunity ‘normal planning policy expectations for affordable housing provision’, while their profits are to be protected from obligations to reprovide the council housing that would be demolished. It’s a case of profits before people every time.
Haringey Council documents are silent on the ownership of the reprovided social housing to be built on the demolition estates. Council officers have insinuated to tenants, and even claimed outright, that reprovision will take the form of new council housing. These insinuations and claims are dishonest and inappropriate. It is likely that the new housing would be built and owned by housing associations, which increasingly use time-limited, high–rent tenancies for their new tenants - in contrast to the permanent tenancies and really-affordable rents which council tenants enjoy. Public subsidy is increasingly being closed to housing associations. So they are pushing to be exempted from regulation, in future selecting their own tenants, setting their own rents, commercialising their activities, and blending their work with that of private developers. If Haringey council estates are transferred to the housing association sector under these plans, there will be a loss of public control and accountability, to the detriment of the poor, and of ethnic minorities and socially-excluded groups.
Social investment in deprived housing estates
Large-scale community programmes are being provided for some of the Haringey demolition estates, including youth work, health programmes, and employment programmes, all cynically designed to secure community acquiescence with the bulldozers in due course. We do need these essential community programmes, but without demolition, and alongside more and better council homes, with permanent tenancies and really-affordable rents, as part of a real mixed economy of housing.
Haringey Council’s current housing policies will deepen already-existing racial inequalities. If black people and the poor are to spend years in temporary accommodation or grotty multi-occupied houses, while affluent incomers take the newest and best homes, then rising rents and rising house prices will finish the job. This is the reality of social cleansing.
Haringey is a proudly multicultural and anti-racist borough. Instead of mass demolitions, we need and deserve real public investment in our housing stock, infrastructure and communities, to make this borough a much better place to live and work in the future.
This is the current list of Haringey council estates at risk of demolition:
Love Lane and Whitehall Street (North Tottenham) 297 homes
Northumberland Park (North Tottenham) 1,424 homes
Broadwater Farm, 1,084 homes; and Lido Square, Brookside House, Somerset Close, Moira Close, and part of Lordship Lane, 335 homes; with a plan to build houses on one-third of Lordship Recreation Ground.
Turner Avenue and Brunel Walk (South Tottenham) 120 homes
Tamar Way; Reynardsons Court (South Tottenham) 80 home; and 16 homes
Leabank and Lemsford (South Tottenham) 98 homes
Watts Close (South Tottenham) 11 homes
Helston Court, Pagin House, Russell Rd, Southey Rd, and Braemar Rd (part) (South Tottenham) 175 homes
Imperial Wharf (South Tottenham) 170 homes
Barbara Hucklesbury Close (Wood Green) 8 homes
Park Grove and Durnsford Road (Bounds Green) 39 homes
Tunnel Gardens and Blake Road (Bounds Green/Muswell Hill) 32 homes
Summersby Road (Highgate) 44 homes
Current total 3,933 homes
In addition, 1,042 homes in the Noel Park Conservation Area (which cannot be demolished) and 170 homes at Imperial Wharf (in South Tottenham) are being lined up for stock transfer to new landlords.
All comments are welcome
Paul Burnham, Secretary – Haringey Defend Council Housing