It takes a village

Housing and Homelessness

20 September 2021

Photo provided by StART

In many cities around the world, local residents are being priced out of their neighbourhoods as land is sold to private developers who build luxury flats which drive rent and sales prices up. In Haringey, London, the UK, a large portion of St Ann’s Hospital site was due to be sold to a private developer. Residents soon realised that the developer’s plans would set home prices too high for many to be able to afford to remain in the neighbourhood.

In a bid to protect their community, a group of Haringey residents united to form St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART). StART’s goal was to ensure that the development site was used for the good of the local community, and that genuinely affordable homes would allow people to stay in their neighbourhood. StART met with members across the community to learn what people wanted out of the development site. Residents said that they wanted to be able to stay, for green spaces to be protected and nurtured, and for retail units to be built on the complex for small shopkeepers, rather than large chain stores. “We want to see the St Ann’s hospital site used for the good of the community, rather than the interests of big developers,” says Mike, a StART member.

StART then crowdfunded GBP 25,000 to hire architects that could show how the site could be used to maximise affordable homes for local residents, and began negotiations with Greater London Authority (GLA) to buy the site. In the end, the GLA bought the site in 2018, and set up a steering group comprised of themselves, the London Borough of Haringey and StART. 

“The key thing about this project for me is that it means local empowerment – this project is about a small group of people coming together, gaining in number, and believing in something that is potentially unreachable,” says StART member Karen. “Who would think of a group of people coming together and building 800 homes for social housing? People would think this is rubbish. But it is actually happening, and that is really wonderful.”

Thanks to the efforts of the steering group, at least 60 per cent of the homes proposed for the site will be sold at affordable rates and at least 50 of the homes will be transferred to the community land trust. This is far from the original idea of the developer, who had planned that only 14 per cent of the homes to be built would be “affordable”. In reality, this meant 80 per cent of market value, which, taking into account the average income of Haringey residents, was not actually affordable at all. “This is the community saying, this is what we need – basically we are building a mini-village, by the villagers themselves,” says Mike. “This shows that money doesn’t need to be the answer – communities can empower themselves.”

Recently, the GLA announced Catalyst as the new developer for the St Ann’s hospital site in Tottenham. Catalyst is a housing association based in North West London with over 34,000 homes in London and the Southeast, including many social sheltered housing developments. StART Director, Tony Wood, said, “The people of Haringey have been calling for a development on St Ann’s that meets the needs of the local community. We hope that having a London-focused housing association like Catalyst on board will see the developer work with the local community and respect our wishes and desires for the site.”

“I think what StART is doing is very exciting – this is about the community, it’s run by the community for the community,” says Mike. “I think it is really trailblazing. It’s showing a different way … how councils across London and across the country can deal with the housing crisis.”

What exciting news and congratulations to the residents of Harringey and the StART team from all of us at Oak! This grant falls under our Housing and Homelessness Programme, which works tackle the structural causes of homelessness. HHP’s partners are working to create a fairer society by creating opportunities, and building strong communities where everyone can thrive and live dignified lives. Read about other work being done within the programme here. To find out more about StART’s project in Harringey, watch this video.

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