In what must be one of the biggest gambles ever to be made by local government, Haringey plans to stuff family homes, school buildings, its biggest library and much more into a giant private fund worth £2bn. It’s the largest scheme of its kind – “unprecedented”, in the words of backbench councillors. Together with a property developer, it will tear down whole streets of publicly owned buildings and replace them with a shiny town centre and 6,400 homes.
However easy it is for pundits to conflate today’s Labour party with Jeremy Corbyn, to do so ignores the daily experience of people under many Labour councils that are his ideological opposite. Such as the zombie Blairites who run Haringey, and who bear as much resemblance to Corbyn’s Labour as Jive Bunny does to death metal. This shower recently sold an art deco town hall to Hong Kong investors to turn into a boutique hotel and expensive flats – with just four affordable homes.
Lets take this step by step
The area of this venture covers two areas covered by the London Plan, the crappy town centre of Wood Green and Two estates flanking Tottenham High Road, both areas are in the London Plan and must be delivered one way or another if the housing needs of London are to be met. i must admit an interest here as I drew up the development framework for Haringey Heartlands as the first area is known.
Simply patching up these areas without building additional homes is not an option for Haringey Council. Any application would be called in and refused by the Mayor of London for not complying with the London Plan. Unlike say, North Kensington, the area has negative residual land values meaning patching them up and simply raiding the Housing Revenue Account as per K&C isn’t an option.
What could the Council have done? It could have sold the area off as per Southwark with Elephant and Castle and be stung by a developer obtusely claiming affordable housing isn’t viable.
The ideal situation would be for Haringey to raise municipal bonds and capture all land value uplift itself. It cannot do this under government borrowing restrictions.
So Haringey as taken the bold decision to be master of its own destiny, to form a joint vehicle with a property developer where the 50:50 partnership ensure it has an effective veto and can see the books ensuring that the maximum proportion of affordable housing is provided.
Now the deal is concluded the commercially sensitive part is over full consultation can and should occur and Haringey will be rightly criticised if it doesnt listen to existing residents and secure as much affordable housing as it can. Lets not forget however that the elected councillors here represent the 6,000 future residents here not just the existing ones. If locals dont like the results of the deal they can vote or deselect the local councillors,
In the circumstances this is a bold and necessary measure, forced on councils who face a ‘graph of doom’ of rising social care costs wiping out their budgets. For those with large landholdings the HDV vehicle is a far superior alternative to bankruptcy, neglect of social housing and failing to meet housing needs.
This is not ‘Zombie Blairism’ Blair never had the guts to lauch such a brave plan, rather it is bold Municipal Labour, ‘actually existing labour’ not the idle banner waving of the Guardian Commentariat., which produces posturing of the Derek Hatton style and no results for their residents in desperate need.