[Report of the Director for Housing and Growth. To be introduced by the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal]
To make decisions regarding the future of some of the blocks on the Broadwater Farm estate including to consult residents following the receipt and consideration of structural reports and feasibility studies.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal introduced the report which sought approval to immediately re-house residents in Tangmere block, for safety reasons and also sought approval to consult with the residents of Tangmere and Northolt blocks on whether to carry out the required strengthening works or whether to demolish the blocks and rebuild the Council homes on the estate. These actions were required following structural surveys, which concluded that these blocks did not meet key structural criteria. The report further expressed the Council’s preferred option in the consultation, which was to demolish the blocks.
The Cabinet Member expressed the Council’s commitment to safe decent and affordable homes for everyone and having understood the structural issues with these two blocks needed to guarantee the safety of residents .This was in keeping with the Council’s overall responsibility as a landlord .There was the possibility strengthening the blocks to a habitable standard. However, this should not be the standard and there was a political commitment to offer tenants far more than habitability and the Council were committed to expressing a view on what it felt tenants deserved. The Cabinet was clear that there was no decision being taken immediately on the demolition or strengthening options and would continue to listen to residents on Broadwater Farm.
The Cabinet Member outlined that a decision of this scale, to demolish people’s homes, was not one that could be taken lightly. The decision on the future of these blocks would not be taken now. The Council were committing to consult residents in Northolt and Tangmere.
The Cabinet Member continued to provide assurance that residents would be central to this process throughout and their views fully taken into account before taking any final decision either to demolish the blocks or to strengthen, and on the approach to rehousing.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal advised the meeting that residents should have as much choice over where they live as possible and proposed to Cabinet that the Council go further for Tangmere tenants, and also give them ‘Band A’ priority on the housing register, even after they’ve moved from the block. This would give them priority to bid for other Council homes that fall vacant, so they can move again if they wish. Under this amendment, residents in Tangmere, if required, would be able to continue to bid and still have a right to return to the estate whatever the outcome of the future decision on the blocks i.e. strengthening or re-building.
The Cabinet Member proposed that the above commitment be reflected in the Rehousing Policies that would apply to the residents of Tangmere and further proposed that Cabinet agree an additional recommendation to delegate authority to the Director of Housing, Regeneration and Planning, in consultation with the Cabinet Member, to amend the Tangmere Rehousing Priority Scheme and the proposed Rehousing Policy to reflect the above commitment.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal continued to respond to questions from Cabinet Members and the following information was noted:
The Homes for Haringey Director of Operations further explained that over the last two weeks, the Housing team had been engaging with residents in both blocks to explain the situation. There was a dedicated team working with Tangmere residents to explore housing options and understanding if properties are to be taken on a temporary basis or longer term. This activity was also about understanding long-term impact on families that were being moved so putting in place actions to minimise disruption as soon as possible or putting tools in place to support the families with a move.
The Council and Homes for Haringey were already developing consultation activities, in preparation for the Cabinet decisions on section 105 consultation, and planning ahead, being mindful of summer holidays.
There were further questions put forward by non-Cabinet Members and the following information was noted:
(a) Tangmere has failed both the 34 kN/m² and the 17 kN/m² structural tests which means there is a risk of progressive collapse from an explosion caused by piped gas or from an explosion from a lower impact event such as a vehicle strike or bottled gas explosion, and
(b) Piped gas will be removed from the block at the end of October 2018 and as such there will be no supply of heating and hot water to the block after this date, and
(c) It is necessary to rehouse residents temporarily even if a decision is made to strengthen Tangmere.
(a) To agree that officers should consult with the residents of Tangmere and Northolt as set out in paragraphs 6.42 and 6.43 on whether to carry out the required strengthening works or whether to demolish the blocks and rebuild the Council homes on the estate;
(b) To agree that the Council has preferred option in the consultation will be to demolish the blocks due to the significant cost of the works needed to address the health and safety issues identified;
3 To delegate authority to the Director of Housing, Regeneration and Planning to buy back leasehold properties in Tangmere on a voluntary basis;
(a) To agree that officers should consult with residents on the proposed Broadwater Farm Rehousing and Payments Policy, attached at Appendix 2 and detailed at paragraph 6.74 – 6.97;
(b) To note that the proposed policy is drafted so that it could apply in all the scenarios being consulted on i.e. whether to strengthen either or both blocks or whether to demolish either or both blocks and rebuild the homes on the estate;
(c) To agree that officers should consult with residents of Tangmere and Northolt on the proposed Broadwater Local Lettings Plan, attached at Appendix 2 and detailed at paragraph 6.98-6.99;
Reasons for decision
The Council has identified risks in a number of blocks on Broadwater Farm. Surveys have identified structural issues in the estate’s medium-rise blocks, which means they do not meet the required standards to use piped gas and there is a risk of progressive collapse in the event of a gas explosion. The reports also identified that two blocks – Tangmere and Northolt – have failed a lower test, which means that there is a risk of progressive collapse from a lower impact event such as a vehicle strike or bottled gas explosion. These risks have been mitigated through the introduction of measures set out in section six of this report, including:
· In the blocks with piped gas, the replacement of gas cookers with electric cookers and the installation of gas interrupter valves, which will switch off the gas if a leak is detected
· In the blocks, which have also failed the lower test, a 24-hour concierge and a programme of home visits to reduce the risk that items such as bottled gas are taken into the building.
In the case of Tangmere and Northolt, which have failed the lower test, significant strengthening works, are required to address the problems identified and make the buildings safe for long-term habitation. Based on estimates received by Homes for Haringey, the costs of strengthening works would have a significant impact on the Housing Revenue Account’s position. The Council is therefore proposing to consult residents on whether it should strengthen or demolish the blocks, with its preferred option being to rehouse residents, demolish the blocks and rebuild the Council homes on the estate. The results of the consultation will be presented to Cabinet later this year to inform a decision on the future of both blocks.
A decision is required now regarding the occupation of Tangmere, as the piped gas supply to Tangmere is – in common with all blocks on the estate which currently have piped gas – due to be switched off by the end of October 2018. This date has been set by the gas supplier, Cadent, who have indicated that this date for switching the gas off cannot be moved. This report recommends that Cabinet approve the Tangmere Rehousing Priority Scheme, which will apply pending a decision being made by Cabinet later this year on the future of both blocks. This scheme will give Tangmere tenants priority for Council homes, which become vacant. The urgent nature of the rehousing means that the Council may need to issue notices seeking possession under Ground 10, Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985 in order to regain possession of the homes. When relying on Ground 10, the Council is required to provide suitable alternative accommodation to the tenant.
As Northolt does not have piped gas, the October deadline does not apply and there is no need to rehouse residents at this point, but if strengthening works are carried out to the block residents would need to be rehoused temporarily to allow the works to take place. Recommendation 3.5 seeks delegated authority to the Director of Housing, Regeneration and planning to commence the rehousing of residents in Northolt if the position regarding the safety of the block changes before Cabinet makes a decision about the future of the block. For the reasons set out in section six of this report, the Council has preferred option in the consultation with Northolt residents will be to demolish Northolt and rebuild the Council homes on the estate.
The Council does not have a rehousing policy, which applies in scenarios such as this one – where residents urgently need to be rehoused due to a building requiring major structural repairs, or possible demolition due to the expense of repairs. Therefore, a proposed policy will be consulted on over the summer, and presented to Cabinet later this year for approval.
Alternative options considered
The option of leaving residents living in Tangmere beyond October was discounted due to the October 2018 deadline for the gas to be switched off, which means that by this date residents must either be rehoused, or an alternative source of heat and hot water provided. If the rehousing process were not started imminently, there would be insufficient time to rehouse residents from Tangmere before the end of October. Homes for Haringey, who have been liaising with the gas provider Cadent, asked whether the October deadline could be extended, but Cadent have indicated that they are not willing to move the deadline because of the increased demand for gas in the winter months, which increases the risk of a gas explosion.
The Council considered but discounted the option of providing temporary heating to Tangmere, as it plans to with the medium-rise blocks before they are connected to the renewed district heating system. This is because, unlike the medium-rise blocks, an alternative source of heating and hot water alone would not resolve the problem as Tangmere would still need to be strengthened to make it safe in the long-term. The cost of providing heat and hot water to Tangmere through temporary boilers would be approximately £1.3m, as new pipework, heat interface units and temporary boilers would need to be installed to the block. If a Cabinet decision were made later this year to carry out strengthening works to Tangmere, some of this new infrastructure would need to be removed to allow the strengthening works to take place.
Furthermore, if Cabinet decides later this year that strengthening works should be carried out to Tangmere, residents of Tangmere would still need to be temporarily rehoused to allow these works to take place.
Consultation on preferred option
The Council could consult residents on a preferred option to carry out the strengthening works, or consult without expressing a preferred option. However, the impact of the costs of the strengthening works as set out in this report would have a major impact on the position of the Housing Revenue Account. This would mean that investment in other Council homes and estates would need to be re-profiled.The Council has preferred option for both blocks is therefore to demolish the blocks and rebuild the homes on the estate.