Campaigners fight ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ over racism and housing

But council at the centre of allegations stands by its equalities assessments – citing High Court support.

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A London council recently forced in scrapping a £2bn regeneration scheme has been accused of running a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on racism and housing.

MPs have been drawn into a row over FoI responses campaigners claim leave black and minority ethnic (BME) residents in Haringey disadvantaged by the council’s reliance on housing tenures – market sale, market rent, and shared ownership – which have barriers to access because of requirements for deposits and advance payments.

Haringey Council stands by its equalities assessments,, citing support from the High Court secured during a recent regeneration process and referencing three documents:

http://www.haringey.gov.uk/regeneration/haringey-development-vehicle/haringey-development-vehicle-faqs/new-homes#EQIA

http://www.haringey.gov.uk/housing/housing-strategies-policies-and-plans/housing-strategy

http://www.minutes.haringey.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=98829

In February, protest and political pressure forced the council into abandoning the £2bn 20-year regeneration HDV or Haringey Development Vehicle scheme.

Now, the council campaign group Haringey Defend Council Housing (HDCH) – which is not affiliated to any political party and does not endorse any election candidates – interprets the FoI data received from the council as showing 61% for households of mixed heritage, 69% of black households, and 74% of Asian households in Haringey have no savings or are in debt.

“We want to see this scandal addressed urgently by councillors and MPs”, said HDCH’s Paul Burnham.

“Any form of racism is totally unacceptable – this bad stuff is going to be happening all around London unless we stand up and say no.

“These people cannot rent or buy the new homes being built here – we already knew that 48% of households in Haringey have no savings or are in debt excluding mortgages.

“Haringey Council didn’t ask, and didn’t tell about these devastating figures, which spell out the social exclusion and injustice which will follow from continued market-facing development schemes.

“They never even asked for an ethnicity breakdown on the people without savings – we had to work on raw anonymised data that was released following a review that we requested, of the initial response to our question,” he said.

To HDCH, none of the council’s housing equality impact assessments address the income and savings level of BME households.

“The election candidates for both main parties in Haringey [Labour and Lib Dem] have ditched the HDV plan”, said Burnham.

“But they are continuing with grandiose demolition and redevelopment plans, which will exclude poorer people and those with low and unstable incomes, and those with no savings, and people who are in debt.”

“Now we know, in facts and figures, that the losers will be disproportionately black households,” he said.

HDCH has written to all local councillors and to both of the borough’s MPs – David Lammy and Catherine West – to press for:

  • Stopping all demolition plans for council housing estates, which under the government’s housing funding regime can only be replaced by mostly-unaffordable housing, increasing local house prices and private rents
  • Commissioning a new, fit for purpose and comprehensive housing needs survey, focusing on those localities which the Council wishes to ‘transform’, such as Northumberland Park, North Tottenham, etc
  • A Public Enquiry into exactly who (whether Council members or officers, or both) authorised Equality Impact Assessments
  • More and better council housing, which provides the most affordable rents that are most badly needed for local people in housing need, with secure permanent tenancies and with public sector accountability. Restrictions on excessive service charging
  • A re-examination of Haringey’s Local Plan to ensure housing locals ‘can actually afford to live in’
  • Up-front costs such as deposits and advance payments to be ‘properly’ considered – as well as the weekly or monthly costs of rent, mortgages and service charges.

Haringey Council said it took ‘very seriously’ statutory obligations to assess the equalities implications of policies and delivery projects.

A spokeswoman said: “There was an equalities assessment for the HDV, and we made it clear that as each scheme came forward, we would carry out an additional assessment specifically for that scheme – a High Court judge found our approach to equalities impact assessments for the HDV to be completely in keeping with our obligations.

“Our housing strategy set out in some detail how different types of affordable housing must be provided to meet the needs of households on different income levels, and how those needs must be reflected in housing development in Haringey.

“These policies explicitly aim to ensure that local people on lower incomes or with lower savings are able to benefit from new homes being built in Haringey.

“Our housing strategy is clear that Haringey needs new housing across a range of prices, rents and tenures, to ensure that the wide range of needs in the borough is met.

“We have committed to ensuring that there are a range of homes, and that at least 40% of all new homes across the borough overall will be affordable.

“We always carry out equalities assessments on these policies and delivery projects – as required by law – and will continue to do so to ensure new homes are accessible to residents throughout our community.”

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