Victory for Haringey council tenants – and a grim warning

Haringey Council’s Cabinet last night (14 October) agreed that future Haringey Council tenants will continue to be offered permanent (lifetime) tenancies.Last year, members of Haringey Housing Action Group joined up with Haringey Defend Council Housing, to oppose the introduction of five-year, “flexible”, tenancies for new council tenants.  The council’s own consultation questionnaire was overly long and confusingly worded.  Instead, we canvassed opinions outside local schools and the council’s own Customer Service Centres on two key issues – flexible tenancies and “affordable” rents.  Almost everyone we spoke to was against the five year tenancies and the introduction of new rents set at 80% of market rents (an “affordable rent”).

Below is a statement from Haringey Defend Council Housing on the council’s new proposed tenancy strategy which will now go out for consultation:

This is a tremendous victory for tenants who have bitterly opposed proposals by Cllr Alan Strickland (Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration) for new council tenancies of five years only, with options for renewal, but without any appeals procedure.It is also a victory for those Councillors who have blocked and criticised Cllr Strickland’s plans.  They know who they are. Thanks are due to everybody who spoke out, and helped to secure this decision.

However, the Tenancy Strategy which the Cabinet will consider this evening fails to protect future Housing Association tenants, who will be offered “flexible” five-year tenancies at up to double the council rent.  We need permanent tenancies, to promote social equality,  inclusion, local integration, and family security.  But not just for council tenants; it is unacceptable that this security and real affordablilty should be denied to future housing association tenants.   This is a recipe for poverty and social exclusion. Read the rest of this post »

October 15, 2014  Tags: , ,   Posted in: NEWS  Comments Closed

Shian HA ignore tenants’ boiler complaints, before calling the cops…

Outside Shian's officesOnce again, members of Haringey Housing Action Group found ourselves at the Hackney offices of Shian Housing Association, along with supporters from Fuel Poverty Action.

We were supporting one of our members, and her neighbours.  They are all tenants of Shian HA and have been living in new-build properties in Tottenham for over three years.  All that time they have been facing electricity bills four times higher than they should expect to pay.

We were met with similar stonewalling tactics to before.  No staff member who had any knowledge of the problem was able to speak to us – not even on the phone.  In a particularly twisted gesture, one male member of staff informed us that someone would be coming to speak to us, telling us to wait. When no one came, we chased it up with his colleague, she told us that in fact it was the police who had been called.

Is this really the best way of dealing with complaints from tenants struggling to pay their fuel bills?

The Dorothy Smith Lane homes were fitted with Nibe Fighter boilers, which use exhaust air heat pumps, with back-up immersion heaters. There have been numerous problems from the beginning:

  • some boilers were installed incorrectly and parts were missing
  • poor heating temperatures and high electricity bills

At the office today, the tenants were told they could make a formal complaint, despite the fact that they have already made a complaint, some of them more than once.  Shian appear to be using their complaints procedure as a way of not dealing with the issue.

Tenants from other housing associations have experienced the same problems. They’ve been reported on BBC News and BBC’s Rip Off Britain, with positive results.  A housing association in Runcorn replaced the boiler in 69 properties, following complaints.  Others have also compensated tenants for the extra money they have paid on electricity.

But Shian continue to put the blame for the high bills on the tenants of Dorothy Smith Lane.  They say it’s down to “user control”.

We want Shian to:

  • acknowledge that the problem of high fuel bills is not down to the tenants’ use
  • commit to fitting new heating systems for all tenants that want one
  • contact the Tottenham tenants to carry out surveys for a new heating system
  • compensate the tenants for the fuel bills already paid while the complaints have been going on

 

September 16, 2014  Tags: , ,   Posted in: LOCAL ACTIONS, NEWS  Comments Closed

The number of council homes that Haringey Council has built since 2010 – in 129 words

We found this question and answer in the agenda papers for the council meeting on 21 July 2014:

WRITTEN QUESTION 4 – TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR HOUSING AND REGENERATION [Cllr Alan Strickland] FROM COUNCILLOR CONNOR:

How many Council homes has the Council built since 2010?

ANSWER
In November 2013, the Cabinet approved a Housing Investment and Estate Renewal Strategy that supports the development of new Council homes. Homes are currently being designed and need to go through the planning process, so no homes have yet been built, but applications will start going to planning committee from September.

During 2015, construction will commence on the first of 95 new homes (62 for rent, 32 for low cost home ownership and 1 for open market sale) and, of these, 41 are expected to be completed in 2016 and the other 54 are expected to be completed in 2017. Funding and suitable sites are being identified in order to ensure that the Council is able to deliver a bigger and more ambitious new build programme in future years.

Or, in one word: NONE.

Meanwhile, almost 3,000 families are being housed by Haringey Council in temporary accommodation, some for as long as ten years, while they wait for an offer of permanent housing to come up.

August 11, 2014  Tags: , ,   Posted in: NEWS  Comments Closed

7 Ways the Localism Act is Shafting the Homeless and Precariously-Housed

by Izzy Koksal

The Focus E15 mums’ vibrant and unstoppable campaign has been important in highlighting what the largely unheard-of Localism Act means for homeless people and other precariously-housed people. While forced evictions reach an all time high as a result of housing benefit cuts, soaring rents and omnipotent landlords, the new powers given to local authorities under the Act further undermine the already dire homelessness provision.

1. Vulnerable people are being excluded from waiting lists and forced into workfare.

Under the Localism Act 2011 local authorities have been given more powers to set their own guidelines for their housing registers and waiting lists. Following guidance set by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), local authorities are setting extremely narrow criteria for accessing social housing and waiting lists, effectively excluding many vulnerable people. This can entail workfare as people are forced to ‘volunteer’ in order to be allowed on the register. Newham council’s housing list now gives priority to people in paid work over those who are unemployed on the housing waiting list. Hammersmith and Fulham council have used their new powers to remove a homeless single mother from their housing list.

2. British homes for British soldiers.

In a move that echoes the BNP’s ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ campaign, the DCLG guidance also gives additional priority to military personnel for “the important contribution they make to the country.” Taking on this ‘British Homes for British Workers’ guidance with relish, then Hammersmith and Fulham cabinet minister Andrew Johnson sickeningly describes their housing waiting list criteria: “There can be no people more deserving of a council house or access to homeownership than those who give voluntary service in the name of Queen and country.” Research by Inside Housing seems to confirm that as well as the nationalistic and racist prioritising of military personnel, the rest of the changes related to the housing register discriminate against BME populations. Read the rest of this post »

August 1, 2014  Tags: , ,   Posted in: INFORMATION  Comments Closed

Private Renters occupy DCLG

Well done to housing campaigners from London Renters who today occupied the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in protest at evictions and insecurity of tenure. The campaigners bedded down in sleeping bags in the department’s lobby to highlight how being evicted by a private landlord has become the leading cause of homelessness.

The DCLG have reportedly held a workshop about ways to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. But we want secure tenancies for all tenants, and in particular an end to ‘no fault’ evictions, where a landlord can evict a tenant for no reason.

Members of our group have had landlords refuse to renew tenancies, or threaten eviction, after tenants have complained of disrepair.  But there are even greater numbers of people who would rather not complain, and continue to live with damp or poor heating, rather than risk triggering an eviction, and being in the difficult position of trying to find somewhere affordable to rent in London.

Recent research by Shelter found that 1 in 33 renters had been a victim of retaliatory eviction, and a one in eight were so fearful of it that they did not ask for repairs to be done.

According London Renters, it is already easier to evict a tenant in the UK than it is in any other European country.  It is disgraceful that the government are thinking about making it even easier. And a report by Crisis has found that landlords ending private tenancies are now the main cause of homelessness and the number of evictions has been soaring since 2010. Instead of making it easier for landlords to evict tenants, we need secure tenancies to reduce homelessness and allow people to build lives in their communities without fear.

As part of a consultation on property conditions in the private rented sector, there has been a proposal to prevent landlords evicting tenants where they have complained about serious disrepairs. This is something we would support, however, this would still leave tenants at risk of eviction for things like being involved in private tenants groups or questioning a rent increase. There is also no guarantee that this proposal will be implemented.

Tenants also fear evictions for joining or being seen to be involved in private tenants groups or other housing campaigns, questioning rent increases or asking permission to make changes to their home or living arrangements like hanging pictures or keeping a pet. We consider that section 21 should be removed entirely, and private tenants should have the same rights and security as social tenants with secure tenancies.

See more at http://letdown.org.uk/

April 10, 2014  Tags: ,   Posted in: NEWS, PRIVATE TENANTS  Comments Closed