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Haringey Development Vehicle: Write to your ward Councillors

Anne Gray of West Green ward has written to her three ward Councillors urging them to convince the Haringey Council Cabinet to abandon the HDV proposal and offering alternative proposals.

Please write to your ward Councillors  urging the same.

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Dear Councillor Mallett, Council Ayisi, Councilor Griffith,

I am writing to you as a resident of Haringey about the forthcoming Cabinet decision on the Haringey Development Vehicle. It is up to the Labour Group as a whole now to convince the Cabinet to abandon the HDV proposal and it is of great importance to the public that you do so.

1. The council’s policy about the rights of tenants whose homes will be transferred to the HDV, or who will be rehoused by the HDV in different homes, seem to be very unclear, as is evident from the excellent article by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/19/lives-torn-ap... and the subsequent Twitter exchange he had with Claire Kober at https://twitter.com/clive_carter/status/822209579052400641

Of course, the law of the land as it applies to non-council tenants may sooner or later over-ride any specific agreement between the HDV and the Council in various ways. For example Claire Kober admits in her article on the Haringey web site that in relation to the new homes that will be built, in view of ‘the new requirement to sell our most expensive council homes to subsidise housing association right-to-buy, I couldn’t guarantee those homes would be available for the long term.’ Once the homes are transferred and the Council does not have a veto or a majority vote on the controlling board of the HDV, anything could happen whether in response to legislative changes or other events.

Tenant security and rent levels might also be in jeopardy in response to changes in the profitability of the private sector partner. For example, if faced with the choice whether to abandon a project or put rents up drastically for existing tenants, just because the private partner is not achieving its desired rate of return, which would the Council choose? And if the company is sold on by the

initial partner in response to a threat of financial collapse, what choices would the Council have then?

The HDV proposal is a gross instance of ‘selling the family silver’ and I hope the Labour Group will realise that it is completely contrary to the principles of what the Labour Party stands for.

The correct path of action about the housing crisis in our borough would include many alternative options. For example:-

- to support the new Mayor of London in his struggle to secure a greater percentage of affordable housing in private developments through planning guidance, and securing more genuinely social rent building

- to use the Enfield strategy of a municipal housing company to buy up homes on the open market and use them to house the homeless, thereby saving a fortune in temporary accommodation bills,

- to address the bad practices of private landlords – including frequent evictions and undue insecurity for private tenants which causes homelessness and increase the vacancy rate in the housing stock; barriers to entry to new tenancies through unfair lettings fees and discrimination against those claiming benefits. This can be done by enforcement action on lettings agencies (currently being studied in detail by London Assembly member Sian Berry) and by compulsory registration of private landlords in areas of social stress, as Brent, Barking and Dagenham, and several other boroughs have done.

- to support community housing trusts and other forms of community owned housing, and to launch a local housing bank in which local people could invest their savings in order for affordable homes to be built for the local community

I also read the report of the Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel, and have the following concerns:-

1. Because this proposal effectively binds the council to one development partner for a long period of time (15 to 20 years is talked about), the council is putting itself into a weak position. It would not be able to afford to get out of the deal and if the developer walks away, it may have to pick up serious losses. I have been told that the council’s hold over the development partner consists of with-holding further land if the appropriate conditions are not met. But this still gives the developer enormous power over any given site for which it has already received transfer of the land. This will include the power to negotiate away the precious quota of affordable housing in order to make more profit.

2. The division of control 50/50 may comply with anticipated government strictures against a safer 51/49 % arrangement but it exposes the Council to lack of control and potential deadlock in the event of disagreement. Such disagreement is likely since the private developer clearly will seek to maximise profit whilst the council will (one hopes) prioritise value for money and gains for the community.

3. Because this proposal involves giving carte blanche to one private sector outfit, they will have a quasi monopoly position in terms of large scale development in Haringey for a long period of time, giving it the ability to dictate terms to subcontractors (for which read small and medium sized local enterprises). This has to be bad news for local firms and for employment in the sector locally. There will be an assumption in favour of large scale projects rather than smaller scale ones. This is detrimental to small and medium size local enterprises; but it is also bad news for local residents (in the case of housing) and local enterprises (in the case of commercial property) in terms of the options open to them.

4. Because there has been scant consultation and because there is an assumption of large scale decanting of residents and businesses, the level of disruption that is likely to be caused to local people and local business is not being given significant enough weight in the decision making. Already there is huge opposition to the demolition of council estates such as Broadwater Farm and Northumberland Park. The security of people’s homes should not be placed in jeopardy by delivering control of thousands of them to a body that the Council and therefore their elected representatives will not really control. Residents just do not seem to be effectively involved in consultation – the recent PPCR report at https://ppcrassociates.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/survey-report-se... found in its survey of Northumberland Park residents that 34% of them did not know anything about the ‘regeneration’ proposals and 35% ‘didn’t know much’.

5. The current model seems to suggest that the Board Members of the HDV that represent the council would be 3 people (of whom 2 would be officers and one would be an elected member). To have only ONE elected member on the board is a travesty of democratic control.

6. The proposal materially alters the legal rights of residents on transferred land by making them tenants or leaseholders of a non-public body. The implications of this do not seem to have been fully considered or made transparent to the public.

Yours sincerely

Anne Gray

West Green Ward

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