Election fever

In the run up to the May election, Haringey Citizens gathered in their hundreds to discuss the issues that matter most to them

In mid-April, 500 residents gathered under one roof to hold politicians to account and show that a different kind of community politics is emerging – but who are Haringey Citizens and what is their agenda?

The national spotlight has been on Haringey in recent months as local politics has been dominated by stories of Labour infighting during the bitter row over the Haringey Development Vehicle, which has cost Leader of the Council Claire Kober her job.

But with the focus so firmly set on politicians, what has gone largely unreported are people’s stories of what it is like to really live in Haringey and why so many people desperately need change. Life for many in Haringey is challenging, and despite recent changes, Tottenham remains one of the most deprived areas in the country. Leadership is needed.

As is so often the case, it falls upon civil society to show that leadership and many of the solutions to our problems lie in the power of our communities and that’s exactly what we are seeing from a radical group of community leaders from Haringey Citizens and with them – a different kind of politics is emerging.

Haringey Citizens is a broad based alliance of faith groups, schools and charities who campaign for the common good and are part of the national organizing charity Citizens UK – best known for starting the Living Wage Campaign.

On Thursday 26th April, we hosted our Local Election Assembly to share the stories of struggle and hope from young and old across the borough and to seek commitments on housing, wages and refugee issues from the politicians who have leadership aspirations on our Council.

During our listening campaign last year, we engaged in thousands of conversations and heard stories of parents and children being exploited by rogue landlords living in overcrowded and unsafe privately rented housing. We’ve heard from people living in uncertainty as the future of their estate is up in the air and from families struggling to afford to live in the borough with the cost of housing spiraling out of control.

Yet we’ve also heard stories of hope, like of Muswell Hill Methodist Church resettling a Syrian Refugee family, of residents taking on housing developers to secure affordable housing on new developments and of pensioners campaigning to win a new road crossing outside their church.

We’ve gathered these stories together, voted on the issues most important to us and, ahead of the upcoming local elections, compiled our own agenda for change. The top five issues for Haringey Citizens are; rogue landlords, affordable housing, Broadwater Farm’s future, the Living Wage, and refugee resettlement.

Broadwater Farm

Linda has been a teacher at the Willow Primary School on the Broadwater Farm Estate for seven years, joining not long before the riots broke out in 2011.

During that time, and in the decades before, the future of the Farm has been uncertain. Parents at the school have felt left out of the conversation as hollow promises and unfounded threats have characterised the narrative, whilst the challenges of day to day life on the Estate have gone ignored.

Linda is conducting a listening process on the Estate over the summer and is calling on the new administration to come to Broadwater Farm in the Autumn and engage with our recommendations to make the Estate a safe, healthy and affordable place to live now and in the future.

Affordable Housing

The term ‘affordable housing’ has lost all meaning in London and Haringey. The cost of buying or renting homes in the borough have left homes out of reach for the majority of Haringey residents.

That’s true for Tola’s family. She is a grandmother living in Tottenham Hale and her daughter has a well-paid job. However, earlier this year the landlord put the rent up and she’s been forced to move back in with Tola. There is now three generations living under one roof and the family have no prospect of being able to afford to buy in the Tottenham they call home.

Tola is calling for Haringey Council to redefine affordable housing, to link affordable housing to average incomes – not the market rate, with the goal of people spending no more than a third of their income on housing costs. It may just mean Tola’s daughter could afford to stay in Tottenham Hale.

These are just two of the individual projects Haringey Citizens will be campaigning for and urging the soon to be elected Council to take note of. There are many more.

To find out more about Haringey Citizens: Visit citizensuk.org/north_london Tweet @HaringeyCitize1