Apex House – who will stand up to Grainger?

This evening, 27th May, the council is holding a Development Management Forum at CoNEL presumably to “consult” with the public over the plans for Apex House.  Some have questioned why the meeting has been arranged with so little publicity.  Others will be only too familiar with the way in which the council likes to keeps its dealings with Grainger under the radar.

Apex House is a three-storey building on the corner of Seven Sisters Road and Tottenham High Road.  Many local residents will know it as South Tottenham Customer Centre.  Many more will just know it as “the housing office”, because this is where you have to come if you are homeless, facing eviction or having trouble paying your rent. Read the rest of this post »

May 27, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: INFORMATION  Comments Closed

It’s Our Tottenham, not Their Tottenham

Protest outside the £300-a-head ‘regeneration and redevelopment’ event at our Town Hall

Thursday 26th March, 1pm – 2pm

Tottenham Town Hall, Town Hall Approach Rd, London N15 4RY
Protest called by the Our Tottenham Coordination Group, Haringey Housing Action Group, Taxpayers Against Poverty, and Haringey Solidarity Group. All supporters are welcome to bring relevant placards and banners…

We believe that those who live and work in Tottenham should be driving forward the decisions about the future of our communities. Instead we have unaccountable property developers, Councillors and private companies trying to impose their top-down, profit-led mass ‘regeneration and redevelopment’ schemes all over our neighbourhoods.

As the Tottenham public are excluded from this elitist event for so-called ‘key stakeholders’ [see below], we call on local people to attend the protest/rally outside to make our voices known…We invite all the real key stakeholders to join in. Read the rest of this post »

March 25, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS  Comments Closed

How one Haringey council officer could prevent a family being evicted

Today we have been give the runaround by Haringey Council. All we wanted was for a housing benefit officer to speak to a homelessness officer.

Background:

One of our members had been evicted from a privately rented property.  She applied as homeless to the council, but the council eventually denied that they had a duty to house her, stating that she had made herself “intentionally homeless”.  One of the key reasons why they had come to this decision was, they said, due to rent arrears as a result of rent she had withheld from the landlady.

She had made it clear to the council’s homelessness team that her rent was being paid by housing benefit, and was being paid directly to the landlady.  If this was the case, how then could this have led to a “deliberate act or omission” on her part? A simple phone call from the homelessness team to the housing benefit office could have confirmed this. Read the rest of this post »

March 9, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS  Comments Closed

Homelessness and the Localism Act – know your rights!

Localism Act leafletToday, members of Haringey Housing Action Group distributed leaflets outside Apex House (South Tottenham Customer Service Centre), to make people aware about some changes that councils are making to the way they house homeless households. This was just one of many actions happening across London as part of the Radical Housing Network’s week of action. (Read about HASL’s occupation of Lambeth Town Hall.)

Since November 2012, there have been some important changes to homelessness provision by local councils.  These changes mean that homeless people that the council have a duty to house may now only be entitled to private sector accommodation.

Previously, homeless households could refuse a council’s offers of private sector accommodation and wait until secure, affordable social housing became available (often waiting for years, living in poor quality temporary accommodation).  However, now, if a council makes an offer of a one-year tenancy in the private sector, people will be forced into taking this offer or face the council ending its duty towards them.

Moving Homeless Households out of London

Haringey Council has reportedly not been using this option because private housing in our borough would be unaffordable to most people in temporary accommodation, and so would not be suitable. This has not stopped council officers from putting pressure on homeless households to accept private rented accommodation on the outskirts of London, and in places as far away as Birmingham.  The council’s official policy does not state that they are doing this, but our members, and other people we have spoken to, say that it happens on a regular basis.  Many people are not aware that the council does not have a policy in pOutside Apex Houselace yet and are scared that they have to agree to such suggestions or face losing any support from the council for good.

The council is now looking to put through a policy some time in March so that it can officially move people out of London in large numbers (see the Council’s Corporate Plan proposals – Agenda item “P5 Savings”.  Such a policy will break up existing family and support networks.  Many people rely on such networks for language support and informal childcare provision.  However, this kind of informal support often extends to helping people with benefit claims, finding decent employment and basic legal advice.  If these networks are destroyed, then families will be faced with going to official bodies like the council for much more of their needs and for any queries.  The total cost to public bodies is certain to increase as a result, because this work is being done on a voluntary and unpaid basis at the moment.

It is also intending for temporary accommodation to be used to make it easier to carry out its estate demolition plans, by placing homeless families in estates earmarked for demolition or “decanted permanent stock”. We have already heard from people who have been moved into such properties. Any attempt by the tenant to get the council to fit basic security or carry out repairs was met with a big blank.

Our housing action group is against the use of any force being used to divide families and friends.  There is enough space in Haringey for the households that want housing, the problems are that the housing is unaffordable, in a poor state of repair and is controlled by those who only want to turn a profit, rather than those who want a home. And yet, the council tries to convince us that the best option is to demolish existing council estates and replace them with fewerOutside Apex House 2 council homes for social rent.

Changes to Council Housing Allocations

Councils have also been granted the power to change the way they allocate council housing.  Haringey Council is in the process of making changing to its own allocation policy.  Many other London councils have changed their policies so that homeless people are no longer in high enough priority to stand a chance of getting much needed social housing.  Some are increasing the amount of time someone has lived in the borough before they can even go on the waiting list.

These policies make it more difficult for everyone to access decent housing, and mask the real demand for such housing.  However, while many people are now understanding the problem facing relatively well-off middle classes – of a lack of affordable housing to buy, and to rent in the private sector – there doesn’t appear to be as much being said about the problems that households in temporary accommodation will soon be facing.  This is something that our group, along with our sister groups in London Coalition Against Poverty, would like to change.

Please come along to one of our meetings if you would like to help.

 

February 16, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: INFORMATION  Comments Closed

Haringey Council plans to move thousands out of the borough

Join the mass Lobby of Haringey Council,5.30pm, Tuesday 10th February, outside Civic Centre, High Road, Wood Green, N22 8LE

As part of its plans to make £70m cuts, the council wants to pass a policy to move up to 3,000 households in temporary accommodation out of the borough, and ultimately out of London. In particular, this will apply to households that the applied to the council as homeless after November 2012, and whom council has accepted a duty to house.  In addition, thousands of council homes across the borough, including 1,000 at Broadwater Farm, are to be proposed for demolition, according to the Council’s revised Local Plan. The council has stated that it does not intend to replace the demolished homes with an equivalent number of new council homes, because the new homes will be of better quality.

*** People around the borough will be coming to protest against Cuts of £70 million.

*** Housing demolitions are also part of the Cuts budget

*** Bring placards and banners, bring your neighbours and friends!

Please get involved the various campaigns around housing in the borough, including Haringey Housing Action Group, Haringey Defend Council Housing and Our Tottenham. People power can make the difference. Read the rest of this post »

February 9, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS, NEWS  Comments Closed

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: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS, 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: HHAG ACTIONS, LOCAL CAMPAIGNS  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: INFORMATION  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

London Renters occupy DCLG

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  Comments Closed