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December 2012

Arsenal's Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Emirates Stadium

Following last year’s riots, Tottenham Hotspur resolved to do more for the Haringey community, including the provision of affordable housing – albeit well away from their swanky new £400m stadium. And much as it will pain them to admit it, they are learning a thing or two from their arch rivals Arsenal. Paul Coleman reports.

Paul Coleman
Freelancer

Rewind to 6 August 2011; a bright Saturday afternoon in Tottenham, north London. Dads and their little lads stroll contentedly home after watching Spurs edge Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in a pre-season friendly.

These last few stragglers from a 25,000 crowd chat about Spurs’ much-anticipated first 2011/12 Premiership game against Everton, due to be played at the club’s White Hart Lane stadium on August 13. But the fans’ post-match insouciance rapidly turns to anxiety as they near Tottenham Police Station.

An angry protest against the police shooting two days earlier of local black man Mark Duggan has turned violent. Panicking fans bolt for cover beneath a hail of hurled missiles.

Sadly, the rest is infamy. Rioters destroy police vehicles and loot Tottenham shops.

The landmark Carpetright store is callously set on fire after midnight, including 26 top floor affordable flats run by the Metropolitan Housing Partnership. Terrified residents wake to a real nightmare and run to save their lives. By daybreak their entire art deco building is nothing but a smouldering ruin.

Riot mayhem spreads to other English cities over the next three long days and nights. The Premier League postpones the upcoming Tottenham-Everton match.

In the aftermath, a “deeply saddened” Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy says the riots have resolved the club to help improve the lives of local people.

“Through the work of the club in our neighbourhood, we know that there is a strong sense of community in Tottenham,” says Levy.

Spurs

Fast forward to October 2012. Invited developers and housing associations sip wine in Tottenham’s plush Bill Nicholson Suite. Tottenham finance director Matthew Collecott says: “Last year’s huge unrest starkly showed how things can go wrong very quickly.”

Collecott claims Spurs’ new £400 million, 56,000-seater stadium – literally being built a stone’s throw north of its 36,000-capacity current home – reaffirms the club’s commitment to Tottenham. Haringey Council leader Claire Kober tells canapé-nibbling guests the stadium guarantees Tottenham 300 new homes.

“We were prepared to reduce Section 106 terms to get the Spurs scheme moving,” says Kober, referring chiefly to the absence of on-site affordable homes at the new stadium. “We want to see new housing and estate renewal benefiting old and new residents,”.

Afterwards, Collecott explains to 24housing: “The riots strongly refocused Spurs on Tottenham.” Collecott storms off in mock disgust at the suggestion that rival north London club, Arsenal, could teach Tottenham Hotspur how to provide new homes for local people when building a new stadium.

“Seriously, Arsenal did very well,” says Collecott. “But higher Islington property prices have helped them.”

‘Affordable’ Arsenal

Arsenal rain pelts Newlon Housing Trust chief executive Mike Hinch. “The only housing actually on this Arsenal Emirates site is for key workers,” says Hinch proudly.

Hinch points his umbrella toward the 249 key worker homes towering beside Arsenal’s impressive new Emirates stadium. “Football clubs bring an energy to regeneration and do more in the community than they get credit for,” says Hinch.

Newlon won the right to partner Arsenal and Islington Council in the £1bn Arsenal Regeneration Area (ARA) scheme over 10 years ago. Islington Council cut a Section 106 affordable homes deal with the club in return for planning consent being given for the Emirates.

Housing Corporation grant funding for key worker flats helped expand the original deal from about 400 to 1,500 affordable homes, equally split between shared ownership, key worker intermediate and affordable rent.

Arsenal finally said goodbye in May 2006 to its 93-year Highbury home and moved just across the road to their gleaming new arena. Crowds of 60,000 bring Arsenal an estimated £2 million per match, a big rise on their income from the 38,000 Highbury Stadium.

The move from Highbury to the Emirates was a short step for Arsenal but a big growth leap for Newlon. “It added about a third to our size,” says Hinch, a Spurs fan.

Hinch explains Newlon persuaded Arsenal early on to build mixed tenure housing, ruling out gated market blocks. “We proved to Arsenal our high quality homes wouldn’t drain values,” says Hinch.

Newlon homes also stand at the popular Clock End of the old Highbury Stadium. Luxury market apartments replaced the players’ tunnel and seating areas in the listed East and West grandstands.

A residents’ garden adorns the football pitch once graced by Arsenal legends like Tony Adams and Thierry Henry. Affordable home residents are excused service charges on these more lavish elements.

Hinch says people with smaller deposits seeking mortgages for shared ownership properties still face some unyielding lenders. But a long waiting list exists for Newlon’s final phase of shared ownership homes at Queensland Road right next to the stadium – and shared owners across Newlon’s ARA homes are ‘staircasing’ their property share.

Newlon’s 1,500 homes on eight ARA sites mix neatly with Arsenal’s 1,500 market homes. “Newlon has helped create a very balanced community around Arsenal,” says Hinch.

‘Affordable’ Spurs?

Hinch says Arsenal directors recommended Newlon to Tottenham Hotspur. He explains Newlon aims to build 250 new social, intermediate and shared ownership homes on a site procured by Tottenham Hotspur that will include a new primary school.

Hinch stresses Newlon and Tottenham have already delivered over 30 affordable homes, offered at social and affordable rents, at Berland Court near Northumberland Park station. “Berland Court is the perfect place to live,” says Hinch. “It’s got a Spurs souvenir shop!”

But Tottenham won’t chase Arsenal up the Premiership affordable homes league table. No affordable homes will arise on-site at their new stadium.

Both Collecott and Hinch agree relatively lower Tottenham land values and house prices make market homes less profitable and affordable homes less viable.

Viability 1 Affordable Homes 0

Hype engulfed Halifax research, published last summer, claiming to show average house prices near 20 Premier League clubs rose by 137 percent between 2002-12, compared to an equivalent 90 percent rise elsewhere.

Prices around Tottenham’s ground rose by 95 percent to just shy of £259,000, compared to £546,000 around Arsenal. Prices close to the Etihad, home of 2011-12 Premier League champions Manchester City, rose on average by 271 percent to £79,098.

Hinch explains reduced government grants for housing associations, in the wake of the 2008-09 financial meltdown, means football clubs find them less attractive as development partners. “Spurs aren’t averse to affordable housing but it’s a question of what works financially for the club,” says Hinch.

On top of these market realities, Haringey Council’s risky, long-haul regeneration strategy wants wealthier homeowners and more up-market multiple retailers to regenerate the area. Haringey planners hint a renewed Victoria Line spur to a new Northumberland Park tube station might be Tottenham’s ticket to regeneration.

A new Premiership football stadium helps greatly but investment in transport infrastructure still seems the most effective way to leverage new affordable homes.