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The Threat to Working Class People and Ethnic Minorities from the Plan for Tottenham*

On Tuesday 31st July 2012, Haringey Council announced a regeneration plan for Tottenham, the Plan for Tottenham, which it claims will create thousands of new homes and jobs in the wake of the riots of August 2011 (1). The small print of this plan reveals that it is actually a plan to push up house prices and rents, reduce the amount of council housing in the area, force out small shops and drive out large numbers of working class people and members of ethnic minorities from the borough to make way for a new middle class population.

This is gentrification - people with lower incomes being forced out of an area to make way for the middle class. No effort is being made to increase the amount of social housing to re-house people displaced from private housing by high rents. Instead Tottenham Hotspur has been allowed to go back on a promise to provide extra social housing while it is proposed that large numbers of council homes are demolished in order to sell land to help fund infrastructure required for the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Ordinary people in Tottenham are being encouraged to support this plan as an improvement to the area but a few years from now it is likely that a lot of them will not be around to see the alleged improvements. These plans look like an attempt to reduce the numbers of certain groups within the population, in response to the riots of August 2011. The idea is to make it harder for lower income people to live in Tottenham and more attractive for people who work in the City of London to move to Tottenham. These riots were provoked by the misconduct of the authorities and police racism. It is an outrage that the people of Tottenham are being collectively punished for them by gentrification.

HIGHER RENTS FOR PRIVATE TENANTS
The whole thinking behind the Plan for Tottenham is to increase property values in Tottenham in order to increase profits for private speculators and the banks that fund them. This will mean higher rents for private tenants as well as those housing association tenants who will now be paying up to 80% market rents, due to new government policies.

On page 41 of the Plan it states:

‘As a growing and developing destination, Tottenham will require a mix and balance of housing to support the area’s potential - underpinning this will be a much stronger promotion of home ownership options in new schemes.’

and on page 45, in regard to private landlords, it states the Council will:

‘Introduce strong controls to prevent further conversions and clustering of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).’

They also say they want to work with private landlords to improve the quality of their homes. No problem here, you might think, but if private landlords have to improve their homes they will want to charge higher rents. This will force lower income tenants out.

These proposals would be fine if the council could impose a rent cap on landlords. It would be fine if the Council was committed to re-housing low income private tenants in new, high-quality social housing. But with no rent cap and no increase in the amount of low-rent social housing in Tottenham proposed, these proposals just mean that people will have to move out of the borough.

In the same way such proposals as those for a Victoria Line extension to Northumberland Park, and a new White Hart Lane station (page 19) might look positive, just like plans for a new Tottenham Hale station. But on page 9 we see what is at the heart of this vision, the report says:

‘Tottenham is extremely well positioned to become a new centre for growth in north London. Just one stop away from Stratford and 20 minutes away from Liverpool Street and the City, we anticipate demand for high quality housing and flexible workspace in an attractive setting.’

New transport links are intended to make Tottenham an attractive area for people who work in the City. This will inevitably force rents and house prices up sky high and force out the local population in favour of a population likely to have a different social and ethnic mix. On the same page the Plan cites approvingly a 2012 GVA/Centre for Cities report, Evolving London: Future Shape of the Capital (2). The GVA is a consultancy which advises property developers. Speaking of the proposed regeneration of Tottenham, the GVA/Centre for Cities report states on page 15:

‘The speed at which this regeneration takes place will be determined by the ability of the public sector to intervene to counter low values, which currently prevent speculative development.’

It is quite clear that the property developers, the Council and the Mayor’s office are getting together to force up property values across Tottenham very significantly so that private interests can make a big profit.

We must be absolutely clear what the increase in rents will mean for ordinary people in Tottenham. According to the 2001 census 20% of households in Haringey as a whole are private renters, a figure that has probably increased since the credit crunch.

There are new caps on the amount of Local Housing Allowance payable to lower income households to help them with their rent. Once set, Local Housing Allowance is only increased in line with the general price index, it is not raised in line with increases in rent in the local area. This factor combined with huge rent rises due to the regeneration proposals will lead to large numbers of working class people being forced out of the borough. Given that Tottenham was going to be one of the few affordable places left in London after the caps came in, it looks like many of these people are going to be forced out of London altogether.

LESS COUNCIL HOUSING
Haringey Council cabinet minutes indicate there are proposals to knock down some or all of the council housing west of the new stadium, i.e. the Love Lane/Whitehall St. estate and some surrounding blocks. The purpose of this is to allow the land these houses currently sit onto be sold off to the private sector in order to raise £5 million for the various infrastructure and regeneration programmes required by Tottenham Hotspur for their new stadium.

Cabinet minutes state:

‘A public sector investment package for the wider Tottenham area is being recommended to complement the Club’s investment proposals, linking with proposals for additional development in the NDP [Northumberland Development Project] Scheme to boost development value. The overall package of measures will give the Club the necessary confidence to secure the private investment for this £400m+ development.’ (3).

The minutes then note that:

‘the new stadium development faces a funding gap…Public sector investment is needed in the wider Tottenham area to increase public and investor confidence which can then lead to the release of much greater private sector finance.’(4).

The minutes state that the whole public sector led regeneration will cost £41.135 million (5). This money is needed in order to help support the £400 million+ that Tottenham Hotspur is raising for its new stadium. For example £8.5 million of the money for this package will fund a stadium approach linking the new stadium with White Hart Lane Station and £3.5 million will go to funding the upgrading of Tottenham Hale station necessary to deal with extra football fans that will be attracted by the new stadium (6). It is true that a lot of money will go into employment training schemes but it is also the case that many shops and industrial units had to be demolished to make way for the new Tottenham stadium.

The problem is that there is a £5 million shortfall in the proposed £41.135 million package. It is proposed that this money be raised from ‘being able to apply land receipts that may arise as part of any future estate renewal in the area’ (7). The estate in question is ‘Love Lane/Whitehall Street housing estates and the neighbouring blocks’ (8).

This was not the original plan. Before the riots Tottenham Hotspur had agreed to provide £16 million for the regeneration to fund social housing, school places (for children in new housing being built as part of the stadium project) and road and rail links. However, this proposed contribution was scrapped after the riots and the public sector has been forced to pay a much higher cost, including, potentially, a payment from the sale of land on which the Love Lane/Whitehall St. estate stands (9).

On page 13 of these minutes it indicates there will be no loss of social housing but this is not the same as no loss of council housing. Page 19 of the Plan for Tottenham talks about a new housing development, Brook House to be built on land owned by Newlon Housing (10). The proposed site of Brook House is at 881 High Road, Tottenham, which used to be the old Cannon Rubber Factory.

So basically, council housing is lost to be replaced with Housing Association lets, which brings us to the next issue.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS?

In general Housing Association rents are higher than Council rents. Housing Association tenants have less protection from eviction for rent arrears than Council Housing tenants. They also do not have the same democratic oversight that exists (in theory anyway) for council housing (11).

What is even more worrying are the new government proposals for housing association lets. Housing Associations will be able to charge up to 80% market rent on new lets, i.e. much higher than they are at the moment. This is hypocritically described as the Affordable Rent policy.

Under government social security reform plans, families will not be able to claim more than £500 a week benefits, including housing benefits (with some exceptions, e.g. for the disabled). There is no actual guarantee that Housing Associations will keep rents low enough to prevent a breach of the new benefit cap. In London it is believed the so-called affordable rent will be an average of 65% of the market rent in any given area (12). If market rents go up high enough and a family needs a 3 or 4 bedroom house, then even the average 65% market rent proposed for London Housing Association lets could be unaffordable for lower income housing association tenants in Tottenham.

It may well be that Housing Associations will start to avoid making larger properties available for social housing tenants, knowing that Universal Credit caps will prevent the families living in them paying the rent.

On page 45 of the Plan for Tottenham it says there will be a 30 year program of regeneration for Council housing. If the Love Lane/Brook House model is followed, this is likely to mean the demolition of council housing and its replacement with Housing Association lets. In other cases, it may mean the refurbishment of council accommodation at the price of transfer to a Housing Association, a very common model in recent years across the UK. This is suggested in by the Council itself when it stated in August 2012 that it will:

‘Explore partnership with long-term development partner to support change in an area of significant local authority ownership.’ (13).

As things stand tenants forced out of their homes by demolition have to be re-housed in other low rent accommodation, not the so-called affordable rent accommodation. In addition, in council estates that transfer to Housing Association management, the tenants may face somewhat higher rents but not the so-called affordable rents. But as the transferred council tenants move out or die, their flats can be re-let at so called affordable rents.

TRANSFERS IN TOTTENHAM-SLASHED UNDER REGENERATION PLANS
The loss of council housing means it is already virtually impossible to get a transfer unless you are extremely over-crowded. With less and less council properties or Housing Association properties with low rents, over-crowded families may well have to either stay where they are or move out to much higher rent accommodation in the private or housing association sector.

HOMELESS TO BE MOVED OUT OF HARINGEY - SOCIAL CLEANSING AND THE EFFECT ON ETHNIC MINORITIES
Two new government policies pose an immediate danger of homeless people being ‘socially cleansed’ from Tottenham. The effects of these policies on Haringey were described in a handout given out at the Homelessness Forum on 14 September 2012 by Haringey Council. One policy is the £500 benefit cap that is to be introduced when Universal Credit is introduced in April 2013. Given high rents in London, this will have a very serious effect larger families in Haringey.

The handout stated that:

Haringey Council will be focusing on ‘Working out where families can afford to live.’

‘452 homeless families with 3 or more children living in Haringey’s TA [Temporary Accommodation]’ [will be affected.]

‘350 families with 3 or more children living in Haringey’s private sector’ will be affected.

Of the families in TA only 23 are white British, 152 are Black African, 50 are Turkish, 44 are Kurdish, 24 are other White European, 24 are Black Carribbean and 18 are Bangladeshi, 107 are Other (many of these could well be Black British as there is no separate category for people describing themselves as Black British and it is quite a popular self-designation.)

In the section entitled ‘Where families can afford to live’, the following areas are given for lone parents with 3 children or more:

3 children: 3 bed Broxbourne/Luton, (Barking if they pay a £14 shortfall),

4 children: 3 bed- Birmingham

4 children: 4 bed (and above) Bradford

For couples with 3 children or more the only options given are for Luton and Bradford.

Is it really the case that there should be such a seeming bias to moving people who are largely from ethnic minorities to other areas where there are large populations of ethnic minorities? How does this impact on peoples’ right to individual choice?

What is more, there are likely to be more and more homeless families housed outside London in private accommodation. Up to now people waiting for council housing could not be forced to go into private accommodation on a permanent basis, they could stay on the waiting list until a council or Housing Association property was available. Now that has all changed. As the Homelessness Forum handout points out:

‘Under the Localism Act, the Council will no longer require the consent of [new] applicants to discharge its homelessness duty with an offer of suitable private rented housing.’

Now, the Council will be simply able to offer private rented accommodation to discharge its duty to the homeless. (If the household presents as being in sufficient housing need in the future, they would be entitled to more assistance with finding another private let.) The big question is what will happen to larger homeless households being offered private accommodation? Will they be asked to leave London due to the benefit cap?

THREAT TO SMALL BUSINESSES

The Plan for Tottenham is incredibly honest about the Council’s ambition to close down small businesses on the High Street to make way for the big corporate chains.

On page 34 it states:

‘The High Road will become home to more brand names, high quality independents and leisure providers that are attracted to the sense of place and excitement being created on the High Road.’

and on the same page:

‘A revitalised High Road will have fewer retail units and the centres of commercial activity will be consolidated around Northumberland Park, Bruce Grove and Seven Sisters / West Green Road… Lower quality outlets will be replaced by high quality businesses that make a positive contribution to the local area.’

The Plan keeps talking about entrepreneurship but how does this proposal encourage entrepreneurship? Existing small businesses in Tottenham serve the diverse needs and preferences of the community, for example food outlets serving African, Caribbean and Turkish food, hair and beauty shops serving the specific needs of people of African descent, money transfer shops serving the needs of recent immigrants sending money to their home country. Are these shops to be designated low quality?

The results of a consultation into this matter was rather worrying in this regard. It states: ‘Whilst a positive mix (in terms of chains and independents) was advocated, the idea of mix and balance often manifested itself in concern with certain types of premises (betting shops, fast food establishments, beauty shops etc.)’ (14). While few would have a problem with betting shops being closed down, there must be concerns about which communities the beauty shops and perhaps even the fast food outlets are currently serving.

Anecdotal evidence from regenerations in Hackney is not all that encouraging, for example the fate of the Four Aces club in Dalston and the problems faced by the Nutritious Food Gallery in Broadway Market. Although the threat to Centreprise in Dalston may or may not be directly connected to regeneration it does not say much about the attitude of a Labour council in a borough neighbouring Haringey to a centre serving the needs of the black community in an ‘up and coming’ area.

THREATS TO ETHNIC MINORITIES.

As well as the threat to small businesses serving ethnic minorities (see above), the whole plan seems virtually intended to target black and other ethnic minorities. In Haringey, the employment rate for 2010/2011 was 64.7% but for people from ethnic minorities, it was only 51.2% (15). The lower employment rate is due to racial discrimination in employment and education in the UK.

Not surprisingly, lack of employment impacts on the ability to pay for housing. 34% of the people in housing need in Haringey are black, 3 times their size in the local population (16). It is quite obvious that once rents are pushed up and low rent housing becomes more scarce, it will be black people and other ethnic minorities who will bear the brunt and will have to leave the area in a large number of cases.

In the USA gentrification has led to a decline in the proportion of black people living in historically black communities, for example in Harlem (17) and Washington DC (18).

CONCLUSION
Recent revelations of police racism have shown that an appalling level of racism exists in the police. In April the Guardian listed 11 separate cases of racial abuse by the Metropolitan Police alone (19).

As the Mark Duggan case shows, the police complaints authority, the IPCC is just the police investigating the police and doing everything possible to prevent accountability. It is clear that black people have been facing oppressive, racist policing and have had no democratic means of redress (20). Of course the destruction of small businesses and homes in the riots was terrible. However the fact is that in every society where people face oppression and have no democratic remedies unrest happens, it is unavoidable. Punishing black people and working class people for the riots by means of gentrification is absolutely unacceptable and this policy has to be smashed.

We must demand:
- More social housing with secure tenancies and low rents in Tottenham to house private tenants displaced by higher rents.
- A mass struggle to target landlords who push up their rents and evict working class tenants.
- No to Housing Association rents based on local market rents.
- Protection of small businesses, including those that serve the needs of ethnic minority communities.

*This article was originally posted to the Haringey Solidarity Group email list. It combines the text of the original ‘No Gentrification for Tottenham!’ article with a large variety of new information. This includes information about homeless families being forced out of London and further detail about the proposed demolition of council homes in North Tottenham to fund infrastructure and other developments necessary for Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium development. As new information is coming in all the time about this regeneration and the dangers it poses for local people, the best approach seems to be to just keep updating this article so that all the information can be kept in one place, for easy reference.

FOOTNOTES

(1) http://www.haringey.gov.uk/vision-for-tottenham-unveiled.htm

(2) http://www.centreforcities.org/evolvinglondon.html

(3) Report for Cabinet 7 February 2012. ‘Funding and Investment Package for the Tottenham Regeneration Program.’, p.3.

(4) ibid.

(5) ibid., p. 14.

(6) ibid., (p.17).

(7) ibid., (p. 9)

(8) ibid., (p.5)

(9) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17032644

(10) Along with a new free school see: http://www.tottenhamjournal.co.uk/news/site_of_tottenham_s_new_free_school_revealed_1_1373112

(11) See http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/dch_infopage.cfm?KWord=transfer

(12) http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-07-26-plans-to-cap-affordable-rents-in-london-axed

(13) see ‘Progress in Addressing the Recommendations of the Tottenham Community Panel, August 2012. Appendix A: Summary of commitments to deliver the Tottenham Community Panel Recommendations, August 2012.’, p.8. at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/tottenham-community-panel-publishes-progress-report.htm

(14) Summary of Complete Feedback from ‘Have your Say on Tottenham’s future’ consultation questionaires, April 2012 p. 11), at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/feedback_from__have_your_say__consultation_questionnaires.pdf

(15) see http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/social_care_and_health/health/jsna/jsna-wider-determinants/jsna-employment.htm .

(16) see Haringey Council’s ‘Corporate Equality Objectives 2012-16’ at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/appendix_a_corporate_equality_objectives_2012-2016.pdf


(17) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/nyregion/06harlem.html?pagewanted=all


(18) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/us/18dc.html?pagewanted=allsee


(19) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/28/mark-duggan-coroner-police-watchdog

(20) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/apr/16/met-police-cases-alleged-racism , (subsequently two juries have failed to reach a verdict over allegations against one of the officers named here-PC Alex MacFarlane).