MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Here’s my latest Muswell Flyer article on housing in Haringey. You can read this article and previous articles online here.
Many years ago, I got a mortgage for my first flat (off the Archway Road) – which enabled me to get a first foot on the property ladder. Social housing for those in need was also relatively easy to come by.
The same certainly cannot be said in Haringey today. Unfortunately, housing here is a huge problem – particularly for those on the Council waiting list, those already in social housing, and young professionals and families struggling to save a deposit for a first home.
The waiting list for social housing has over 10,000 families on it. There are simply too many people in need and not enough houses available.
The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off council homes without reinvestment in replacement housing; and secondly, Haringey Council not building any new homes in 25 years.
There are also problems with the quality of social housing. I think social housing should be attractive and built to last – not neglected and run-down. Yet, every week, I am contacted by residents who desperately need repair and maintenance work, and are just not getting it.
There are serious problems with Labour-run Haringey’s housing arm – Homes for Haringey. News recently broke that staff claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in less than two years. This was just shocking – this was public money which could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes.
It’s this type of behaviour that the local Lib Dems are fighting against in the local elections next year, as they attempt to take control of Haringey Council from Labour.
In the private rental sector – there are also young people and families unable to save for a deposit to buy their first home due to high rents. And with rents and property prices on the rise, it can be daunting and difficult for first time buyers.
So, with the lack of building, bonus scandals and wastefulness, and rising property prices, people in Haringey are up against it.
But it’s not all bad news.
The Coalition Government has introduced measures to ease the crisis. The new Help to Buy scheme is giving young people the chance to get on the property ladder – by offering them new homes if they have a 5% deposit. The rest of the deposit will be covered by a Government loan.
Council tenants are still able to buy their homes – but now, Councils must reinvest the money in social housing, to ensure we have a rolling stock.
The Lib Dems in Government have also delivered more affordable housing and succeeded in bringing empty homes back into use. We’ve also given Councils extra money towards decent homes work – to improve the quality of social housing.
And we are starting to see some changes. Housing supply is now at its highest since the end of the unsustainable housing boom in 2008, with 334,000 new homes built over the last three years. The number of first-time buyers is also at a five-year high!
Here’s my latest Ham and High Column, also available on Lib Dem Voice.
Social housing in Haringey is in high demand. There are currently over 10,000 individuals and families stuck on the waiting list – and many will not have the chance to bid for a property in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, people are often in cramped conditions in the private sector, or waiting in low quality ‘temporary’ accommodation. This has a detrimental effect on both the children and adults in these situations.
And once families are given social housing in Haringey, it’s not always plain sailing. Every week, my office receives dozens of letters and emails from residents, distressed by the state of their homes.
My constituents have suffered leaks, boiler breakdowns and damp – and often they are left for months without receiving proper repairs.
This is unacceptable; and we’re in the midst of a social housing crisis in Haringey. Anyone with common sense will know that more homes need to be built, and that Haringey Council need to improve their services to current tenants.
But our local Council aren’t known for their common sense.
Labour-run Haringey Council haven’t built any new homes in 25 years. And 25 years ago, they built 7. Finances may be tight now – but what on earth were they doing during the Blair and Brown years, when they had more money than they knew what to do with?
Instead of investing in new housing stock – they wasted their money and let the waiting list grow longer and longer.
And the culture of waste at Haringey Council continues, despite the tough economic times.
News recently broke that staff at Homes for Haringey – Haringey Council’s Housing department – claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in the last two years (2011-13).
It’s frankly sickening that this was allowed to happen, especially at the same time as they cancelled Decent Homes repair work on hundreds of local houses due to a ‘lack of money.’
To put this in context – £3.7 million could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes. That’s the size of the entire Sandlings estate. Instead, Haringey Labour allowed it to be spent on undeserved bonuses, and then had the audacity to blame Government cuts for the cancelled repairs.
The Coalition Government are aware of the problems faced by boroughs like Haringey. The Government have recently provided Haringey Council with extra funding, so that repair work can still go ahead in some areas where they had been cancelled.
And now, when Council tenants wish to buy their homes, local Councils must reinvest the money in social housing (rather than wasting it elsewhere), to ensure we have a rolling supply of housing.
The Coalition’s new Help to Buy scheme is also giving assistance to first time buyers, particularly those buying new build properties. This is stimulating building of new homes whilst also easing pressure on the private rental sector.
These measures are going some way to righting the wrongs of previous Governments, and easing the housing crisis. I will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Haringey and fighting for extra help and investment wherever possible.
The Liberal Democrat MP called on Circle 33 to make the repairs, following a number of complaints from local residents about poor living conditions, acute damp, and the corridors being in a state of disrepair.
Along with Hornsey Liberal Democrat campaigner Dawn Barnes, the local MP started a petition, recorded a video and demanded a meeting with the Managing Director of the Housing Organisation.
After the meeting, Circle 33 agreed to run a specialist site investigation. On Friday, they informed the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green that:
Commenting, Lynne Featherstone MP said:
“It should never have taken this long, but I am glad that Circle 33 has finally started to undertake these vital repairs.
“Thank you to all the residents who signed the petition and helped us up the pressure on Circle 33 to make repairs. Together, we have pushed them into action.
“This is not over, though. We will continue to keep an eye on the situation, and we will not rest until residents in Colorado block are happy with their living conditions.”
Many years ago I got a mortgage for my first flat (off the Archway Road) – which enabled me to get a first foot on the property ladder.
Owning a house is still an aspiration for many young people, who want properties as big, or bigger, than their parents. But times are tough – particularly for many young people in the private rental sector who cannot afford to save for a sizeable deposit.
The bottom line is that, up until 2010, not enough houses were built. Prices of existing properties have spiralled out of control and the younger generation have been frozen out of the market.
That’s why the Coalition Government introduced a number of measures to ease the housing crisis, build new homes and give young people assistance in getting on the property ladder.
And we are starting to see some changes. Housing supply is now at its highest since the end of the unsustainable housing boom in 2008, with 334,000 new homes built over the last three years. The number of first-time buyers is also at a five-year high.
Please do take a look at this document – which gives details of the schemes introduced by the Coalition Government to help first time buyers and ease the housing crisis. If you’re looking to buy your first property, or know someone who is, this is a must-read!
Any questions – just ask!
The Liberal Democrat MP demanded the meeting following complaints from residents about poor living conditions. Residents in the block are suffering with extreme damp, while the communal areas such as the corridors are in a state of disrepair.
According to residents, sewage regularly floods the lift and the bin store is left in a state – attracting vermin.
After the meeting, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green accompanied the Managing Director on a site visit, so he could see the problems and discuss them with residents.
On behalf of Circle 33, he said that a specialist site investigation had begun, with a report expected within five weeks. He stated that Circle 33 would take the necessary action following this report.
Local campaigner Dawn Barnes said:
“I have been out collecting petition signatures from residents who are fed up with these poor living conditions.
“It’s great that Lynne Featherstone presented the petition to Circle 33 today, and that they made commitments to sorting out the problems. We’ll keep on pushing them until the situation improves, and will be keeping residents updated every step of the way.”
Lynne Featherstone commented:
“It is just shocking that the situation has gone on so long without Circle 33 taking action. Only after our letters, videos and petitioning have they started taking this seriously.
“We now await the results of the site investigation and will take it from there. We will not rest until these residents get decent living conditions – via improvements to the building, or permanent moves to other suitable properties.”
You can see the video here.
The previously fire-damaged property on Hawthorn Road, owned by Metropolitan Housing Trust, has been done up according to the Passivhaus model. With high levels of insulation, air-tightness and triple-glazing, the house will drastically cut its carbon footprint by using 80% less energy than its neighbours.
The home will need almost no extra heating, using solar gain from windows, people themselves, and their electrical goods, to keep warm. The house also has a heat-recovery system for fresh air in the winter without opening windows, and solar panels to heat 60% of the hot water.
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“This warm, comfortable house has been done up beautifully, and is a great example of what can be done to cut energy in Haringey’s many Victorian properties.
“Many local residents really want to be green and cut their carbon-footprint, but don’t know where to start. I’m delighted that the Hawthorn Road house will stand as a shining example of how it can be done.
“I’m sure that Angela, the new tenant, will be very happy here. Well done to Metropolitan Housing and Anne Thorne, the architect, for doing such an amazing job!”
The reality of Labour’s broken promise to install new kitchens, bathrooms and windows in all council homes by 2010 became clear this week when local Liberal Democrats met with a resident who will have to wait another two years until any work starts on her home.
Lynne Featherstone and Cllr Robert Gorrie visited Mrs Jethwa from Hutton Court in Stroud Green to see first-hand how her family had been let down by Labour-run Haringey Council. Mrs Jethwa was told by Labour in 2006 that her 25 year old bathroom and kitchen would be replaced by 2010 but in reality work will not start until 2012.
Despite promises that all council properties in the London Borough of Haringey would receive new kitchens, bathrooms and windows by 2010, recent figures suggest that Haringey Council has failed to even meet a quarter of the homes needing urgent work. Work on homes in Harringay, Bounds Green, Seven Sisters, Fortis Green, Crouch End and Alexandra wards haven’t started at all.
At the most recent Full Council meeting on 22nd March, Labour councillor John Bevan failed to apologise to tenants that had not had Decent Homes work completed on their homes.
Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, comments:
“Mrs Jethwa is only one of thousands of local residents who have been let down by Labour. They promised new kitchens, bathrooms and windows for all council houses, yet Mrs Jethwa’s home is a clear testament to that broken promise.”
Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, adds:
“How can residents believe Labour in this election when most of the promises from last time have been broken?
“Labour has failed to start work on three quarters of council homes and that does not include homes in Harringay, Bounds Green, Seven Sisters, Fortis Green, Crouch End and Alexandra wards where they haven’t started at all.”
A family-sized home, left empty by Haringey Council for nearly a year, has now been taken over by squatters, despite promises by Housing bosses that it would be brought back into use this month. The property, at 15 Nelson Road, Stroud Green (N8), was occupied last week, three months after local Liberal Democrats raised the issue with Haringey Council.
In December last year Haringey Council promised that the property, which is a much sought-after three-bed family home, would be brought back into use by 26 March 2010. Yet no action has been taken on site by Haringey Council.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Stroud Green, Richard Wilson, has written urgently to the Cabinet Member for Housing to demand answers why Haringey Council has failed to act and what will be done to remove squatters.
Cllr Richard Wilson (Stroud Green) comments:
“Local residents were promised by the council that action would be taken to bring this family-sized house back into use. Haringey Council has failed to do this and now squatters have seized on the opportunity to move in.
“One of the neighbours is an elderly lady in her eighties who, I’m told, is quite distressed about the situation.
“We now need a clear plan of action by the council to see what can be done about the squatters and bring this home back into use.
“Given the huge shortage of family council houses in the borough, Haringey Council’s failure to act is an absolute scandal.”
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, adds:
“This home could be used by one of the many families in Haringey who are stuck on a waiting list, in overcrowded temporary accommodation.”
A large three-storey terrace house, which has been empty for nearly a year in Stroud Green ward, is a stark reminder of the failure by Haringey Council to tackle the housing crisis in the borough, local Liberal Democrats said this week.
Latest figures show that 370 council-owned homes are currently empty, whilst over 16,000 families are on the housing waiting lists and 566 families are waiting for properties with more than three bedrooms.
Last week, Liberal Democrats announced a national policy to bring 250,000 empty homes back into use, as part of their economic stimulus and job creation plans.
Cllr Richard Wilson (Stroud Green) comments:
“Large families wait for years on waiting lists and in overcrowded temporary accommodation, until homes of this size become available. It’s scandalous that Haringey Council is happy to let this house, which could be a wonderful family home, lie empty for nearly a year.
“No wonder we have such long housing waiting lists in Haringey, when our Labour-run council is so wasteful with its own housing stock.”
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, adds:
“Week after week I have local families come to me in desperate need of family-sized homes. It makes me so mad to see these properties lie empty, whilst thousands of local residents need homes.
“This is another example of Labour’s failure, locally and nationally, to tackle our housing problem.”
Labour-run Haringey Council last week decided to continue with an unpopular decision that may result in the eviction of vulnerable and elderly tenants from council supported housing. Local Liberal Democrats expressed disappointment, after Haringey Council’s watchdog committee upheld the cabinet decision to progress plans for the redevelopment of supported housing at Protheroe House, and the further review of similar schemes at Larkspur Close and Stokely Court.
Cllr Robert Gorrie, who led the Liberal Democrat ‘call-in’, said that residents’ views had been completely ignored and that the decision was being made in response to financial pressures in the Decent Homes programme, rather than in the best interest of tenants.
He urged the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to recommend that the cabinet should make residents’ wishes central to the decision making process, protect the Decent Homes funding for these properties and take no action against tenants until an Older Persons Housing Strategy, expected in 2010, decided whether there was a need for change.
However, after nearly three hours of discussion and criticism at the meeting from members of both parties about how the decision had been made and the position in which it left residents, the Labour majority on the committee decided to uphold the Cabinet’s decision.
Cllr Robert Gorrie (Hornsey ward) comments:
“After saying that they were unhappy with the decision and accepting it was not the decision residents wanted, Labour members did nothing to challenge their Labour cabinet colleagues.
“It was a real shame to see that, after a three hour debate, nothing has happened and the rights and wishes of residents have been ignored yet again.”
Lynne Featherstone MP adds:
”Labour have once again failed to put residents and vulnerable tenants at the heart of their decision.”