Plans to redevelop Tottenham Hale using Housing Zone funding have divided local opinion over accusations the homes will be out of reach of existing black residents. Reni Eddo-Lodgereports
At a community centre in the heart of Tottenham, Inside Housing is attending a public meeting on race, inequality and ethnicity in the borough of Haringey. It’s a full house, with a wide mixture of people attending, including one little boy who’s come straight from school. But amid the laughter and bustle, the mood turns serious when the talk turns to Haringey Council’s recently announced housing and regeneration plans.
‘I’ve heard nothing about how we can make this regeneration money more accountable for the people who live in Haringey,’ says one man. ‘I really need to know, because I’m sitting here and I’m feeling cheated.’ His points are met with murmurs of agreement.
He’s not the only one who feels this way.
Haringey Council plans to build 1,900 homes in Tottenham by 2018, as part of the £131m Tottenham Hale Regeneration Programme boosted by one of the first tranches of Housing Zone funding secured from the Greater London Authority. On the face of it, this seems like a positive contribution to meeting the high level of demand for housing in the borough, which has 4,587 people on its housing list. The council has decided that half the homes built will be affordable, two-thirds of which will be affordable rent, and one-third will be shared ownership. One aim of the project, according to the council, is to ‘help promote Tottenham in more positive terms’.
Construction of housing has been accelerating in Tottenham Hale over the past few years. In 2011, Hale Village was unveiled, a development of roughly 3,000 homes due to be completed in January 2018, with 1,244 rooms going to student accommodation. A council representative told Inside Housing that Hale Village will continue to see development as a result of Haringey Council’s recently acquired £45m Housing Zone funding. Construction has started at the other end of Haringey’s Housing Zone. Barriers around the freshly built Rivers Apartments on the Spurs end of Tottenham High Road promise passers-by a ‘major sport-led development for Tottenham’ – new homes, a new school and new jobs.
But when Inside Housing turned a microscope on the regeneration plans, we found a different picture. It’s one in which a intriguing coalition of people are aligning to raise concerns about the project, and exactly who it will benefit. The question is whether low-income local residents in most need – who are mostly black – will be the ones to benefit from the development. Or will the council’s emphasis on homes for private sale or low-cost home ownership unduly benefit more affluent – and mostly white – new residents?
Among the criticisms starting to be lined up against the development are those from local residents, an equality impact assessment carried out by the council itself, and – although the council has a strong, long-standing Labour majority – even the local Labour Party.
The crux of criticisms surrounds a decision to ‘place a high priority on affordable home ownership’ in this development and across Haringey Council’s most recent draft housing strategy. The document continues: ‘Promoting this kind of housing helps [to]… give as many families as possible a realistic chance of owning their home and the stability that provides.’
“They are trying to reengineer Tottenham to change the character of its communities.”
Dave Morris, Our Tottenham
In its initial Housing Zone document, the council asserts: ‘With regard to affordable housing, the approach begins to redress the east-west divide in the borough by moving the mix of tenures in Tottenham towards a more sustainable footing, with an emphasis within the affordable component on affordable home ownership options.’
Haringey Council, in turn, argues that the mix of private sale homes and shared ownership is also necessary to fund the development at all, due to the level of grant available from the central government. The answer to avoiding black people being priced out, the council believes, is to improve the economic fortunes of black households in the area.
Not all residents are buying this, however. ‘It’s anti-working class as well as racist,’ says Dave Morris from Our Tottenham, a network of community groups. ‘They are trying to reengineer Tottenham to change the character and the economic status of its communities. A lot of people will be forced out.’
It is a concern echoed in the council’s own equality impact assessment (EQIA) of its housing strategy, which says: ‘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. White households may benefit more easily.’ The 250 social rented homes that Haringey plans to build by 2018 account for just 5% of those waiting to be homed, the EQIA continues.
The average Haringey resident earns around £24,000 a year. That figure is above the national average of £22,044, but below the inner London average salary of £34,473. However, Haringey’s average earnings are skewed by the vast income inequalities in the borough. In Tottenham Hale, the highest amount of residents are working in ‘elementary’ occupations – jobs like sales and services, cleaning, delivering goods, collecting refuse – in comparison to 23.9% of Haringey’s overall residents working in professional occupations.
In March, the general committee of Tottenham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) – an organisation of local party members – unanimously passed an emergency resolution noting its concern that the council’s housing plans have ‘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’. (It should be noted that the resolution is not the policy of Tottenham CLP’s councillors)
“We want to make sure that we’re improving life chances so that everybody can access these new homes”
Alan Strickland, Haringey Council’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, explains the council’s perspective like this: ‘Where people are struggling to access different types of homes because of their incomes, clearly what has to be done is address their incomes. That must come through skills and jobs and training and employment. Through our economic development and jobs work, we want to make absolutely sure that we’re improving life chances so that everybody can access these new homes.’
But to truly understand what is happening here – and why the council’s plans have caused such consternation and worry among local activists – it’s necessary to go back in time to consider where the Housing Zone scheme is located in Tottenham’s turbulent history of race relations.
The Housing Zone earmarks a significant area of land in Tottenham destined for regeneration. Most of this land is in the east of the borough, spanning from Tottenham Hale to Northumberland Park, near Tottenham Hotspur’s football ground.
The site of the ‘regeneration hotspots’ of Tottenham Hale next to the River Lea, is currently home to industrial warehouses, lots of corrugated iron, shipping containers and empty lorries ready to bear loads. Tottenham High Road is flanked by plenty of social housing, alongside many multicultural independent businesses. The warehouses by the river are set to disappear under the regeneration plans, replaced by canal-side housing.
One end of the loop of sites designated for development as part of the Housing Zone is merely a short walk from Tottenham Police Station – the fateful site of a community protest at the shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011, an event that sparked riots across the country.
Twenty-six years before the 2011 riots, Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm Estate erupted in protest of the death of 49-year-old West Indian Cynthia Jarrett – protests that resulted in the death of a police officer, PC Blakelock. Mrs Jarrett died suddenly from a heart attack as police searched her home looking for evidence against her son. He was later acquitted of the charges against him.
This is a history that lives on starkly in the racial divisions of Haringey’s present. Homeownership is high in the affluent west, while residents in the east of the borough, where the Housing Zone is located, live predominantly in social housing. Similarly, high salaries can be found in west Haringey, while low pay is found in east Haringey. These fault lines are compounded by race, with white people disproportionately represented in the west of the borough, and black people disproportionately represented in the east of the borough. 2011 census data shows that in the west Haringey wards of Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Highgate, more than 80% of residents are white, in comparison to around 40% in the east Haringey wards of Northumberland Park and Tottenham Hale.
A recent report from race equality thinktank Runnymede Trust and Manchester University deemed Haringey one of the most unequal places in England and Wales. Additionally, according to the council’s equalities impact assessment on its housing strategy, it is single mothers in the borough who have the highest level ofhomelessness acceptances, and the numbers of single mothers registering as homeless is increasing (the report does not provide exact figures or percentages).
Critics of the Housing Zone plans say they are not against regeneration or change, and recognise the need for more housing and more economic development. Haringey Defend Council Housing is one of the critics of the Housing Zone plans. Paul Burnham from the tenant group says: ‘We’re not opposed to regeneration. This is a community and an area that needs regeneration and investment for the existing residents.’
His view is echoed by Mr Morris of Our Tottenham. ‘People would like to see improvements,’ he says. ‘But what kind of improvements, and who for?’
Back at the public meeting in Tottenham’s Selby Centre, Neale Coleman, the London mayor’s advisor on Tottenham, told an agitated audience: ‘Things have changed hugely over the last government. We’ve gone from having literally billions of pounds a year in grants to support homes at low rent to having next to nothing. It is very difficult in that environment for anyone to maintain the sorts of levels of affordable housing that we would like to see.’
Joe Goldberg, Haringey’s cabinet member for economic development, social inclusion and sustainability, takes the mic. Acknowledging the anger about regeneration in the room he leaves his answer until the very end, calling it ‘difficult’. He says: ‘I’m really clear that that EQIA (equality impact assessment) is a real message to us as your leading councillors that we have to do something about that. People can use that as a flag to say you’ve got to stop regeneration – but I tell you, it’s just not going to happen.’
But Mr Goldberg will have work to do to convince locals. Down the road at the Northumberland Park Estate, which is due to be developed in the next five years as part of the Housing Zone, one local resident, who doesn’t want to be quoted by name, isn’t impressed. ‘It seems good, it’s regeneration,’ he says. ‘But people get trampled in the process. However much social housing is built in any large project is always a negotiating tool, and it’s always minimal.’