Haringey Council’s rehousing policy is an insult to the residents being evacuated from the Broadwater estate

Tangmere house in the Broadwater Estate
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On 20 June, the Guardian revealed that Homes for Haringey (the management company for Haringey Council’s housing stock) urgently plans to evacuate two tower blocks in Tottenham, North London.

The Canary has seen the draft agenda for the upcoming meeting of the council’s cabinet. It outlines Homes for Haringey’s provisional rehousing policy for the residents affected.

Vulnerable to collapse

As the Guardian reported:

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the London Borough of Haringey wants to demolish two blocks on the Tottenham estate after safety tests carried out following the Grenfell Tower fire showed they were vulnerable to collapse if a gas pipe or gas canister explodes or a vehicle strikes the base of the buildings.

The council plans to evacuate residents of Tangmere House immediately, and residents of the Northholt tower block will be evacuated next year. Safety experts have labelled the council “negligent” for not identifying the imminent danger more quickly.

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But a spokesperson for Haringey Council stated:

Although the current risk to residents in affected blocks remains very low, having completed these in-depth structural surveys it is clear that Tangmere and Northolt do not meet standards and significant works or rebuilding will be essential in the longer-term.

One offer only

The next Haringey Council cabinet meeting is due to take place on 26 June. The draft agenda for the meeting sets out Homes for Haringey’s provisional rehousing policy for the residents of the two tower blocks.

It states [pdf, p73] that:

The affected residents will have a dedicated rehousing officer who will provide help and support throughout every step of the move process.

But what is particularly striking is that Homes for Haringey plans to enact [pdf, p69] a ‘direct offer’ policy both for the offer of temporary accommodation and permanent [pdf, p76] alternative social tenancies.

No choice

The agenda explains the ‘direct offer’ policy means [pdf, p76] that:

Only one offer will normally be made. If the offer is refused, the tenant is entitled to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation offered. A further offer will only be considered if the review decision is that the offer is unsuitable.

This means that, if Homes for Haringey offers a resident either temporary or permanent accommodation that they deem suitable but the resident rejects the offer, then – barring a successful appeal – the resident will have to make their own arrangements.

Many councils use ‘direct offers’, especially in areas with limited housing supply. But some residents have lived in the block for 38 years. And if they reject one offer of accommodation, Homes for Haringey can end its duty towards them.

News of the council’s plan leaked to the secretary of the residents’ association, Jacob Secker. He stated:

Residents of my block, Tangmere, are being told we must accept whatever accommodation the council gives us or face legal action. Proposed council policy is to do the same to Northolt residents. We cannot and will not accept this blackmail.

Haringey Council has issued the following statement:

We are committed to providing a safe, decent and affordable home for everyone and I want to assure all affected residents that we will carefully consider all of the issues, and that any decision we take will be with primary consideration for the safety, aspirations and rights of our tenants.

Our residents are our absolute priority and I would encourage anyone with questions to contact the dedicated Homes for Haringey team that has been set up on the estate.

Whatever decision Cabinet makes next week, we will ensure that every resident is given the help and support they need.

An insult

Councils are notorious for showing a lack of sympathy to those who approach them as homeless. Yet surely Homes for Haringey must show some leniency to the residents who are being evacuated through no fault of their own. The ‘direct offer’ policy the council is enacting is an insult to those losing their homes.

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