Haringey Borough Council to clamp down on makeshift homes in warehouses

A special taskforce will be set up to tackle landlords who force people who live in “overcrowded and potentially dangerous” warehouses.

Haringey Borough Council says the borough has seen a recent surge in people renting out industrial units as communal living spaces for young adults.

However, these buildings are often not fit for people to live in – with no means of escape in an emergency, poor sanitation, and a lack of basic facilities.

The council claims there are a total of 727 bedrooms in 322 units across 26 sites in Haringey.

Units are often overcrowded, with up to 20 people living in each one.

The authority said this overcrowding causes problems of noise and litter for people living in nearby houses.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Thursday night the council voted to create a taskforce to tackle the problem.

Planning, housing and enforcement officers will work together with the police and fire brigade to clamp down on the illegal use of industrial units.

The taskforce will also ensure living areas are safe and appropriate.

Councillor Joseph Ejofor, cabinet member for planning and enforcement, said: “It’s unacceptable for landlords to be offering industrial units as places to live.

“The buildings are often cramped, cold, insanitary and dangerous and we are clear that the landlords who are using them in this way are in serious breach of planning regulations and are placing their tenants at risk.

“We know that housing is at a premium in the borough and we recognise the contribution that these residents – many of whom work in the creative industries – make to our borough, but the council would be failing in its duty if it was to turn a blind eye to the very real dangers that these tenants are facing.”

There are 26 sites in Haringey with identified buildings designed for industrial and employment use being put to residential use without planning permission or sufficient adaptations.

Under the scheme, landlords will be asked to clear premises where they are found to be unsuitable for residential use.

Existing residents will be given up to six months to find alternative accommodation and will be offered advice from the council’s taskforce.

But not everyone on the council is in favour of the plans.

Members of the Liberal Democrat opposition have claimed the clampdown on warehouses could mean up to 6,000 people are evicted from their homes.

Councillor Richard Wilson said: “How could Labour-run Haringey Council have failed to notice thousands of residents moving into industrial buildings - including units it owns itself?

“This complete shambles could have been avoided if earlier action had been taken.

“The council must do everything they can to ensure that people are not evicted unnecessarily and the creative community on the site is given all the assistance they need to stay in Tottenham.”

Comments (12)

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5:50pm Sun 19 Jan 14

Dennis R says...

South Ruislip Air Station ca.mid-1960s. I can remember when the enlisted billets were warehouses and the entire US Third Air Force Hq was housed in an industrial estate. Of course there were adequate sanitation and other facilities but the noise factor must have been horrendous.
South Ruislip Air Station ca.mid-1960s. I can remember when the enlisted billets were warehouses and the entire US Third Air Force Hq was housed in an industrial estate. Of course there were adequate sanitation and other facilities but the noise factor must have been horrendous. Dennis R

8:27am Mon 20 Jan 14

Simon-FR says...

"No means of escape in an emergency, poor sanitation, and a lack of basic facilities.", "overcrowded".
The language being used by the council and repeated by this article paints to me a picture of impoverished twenty-something artists living in dingy squats, sleeping on dirty mattresses strewn on the floors of run down and abandoned buildings with no heating, lighting or toilets.
I'm in my mid-thirties, in a professional career and have been living in one of these warehouse conversions for almost three years now and I don't recognise that as the place I live at all.
I share a conversion with twenty or so others, all gainfully employed, some artistic, others not. Each of us has our own room at least 4m x 4m with central heating and an opening window. Our large kitchen has everything you'd expect (we even have a dishwasher for God's sake!) and share an adequate number of toilets and showers and (not including the possibility of escaping through a window) there are three fire exits.
We also have an enormous amount of shared living space which means we can watch films together on our projector, we can play pool on the table we clubbed to together to buy, there’s space for the piano and instruments that musical housemates own and there’s plenty of room for us to just relax and socialise – something that these days is severely lacking in most private rented accommodation as landlords increasingly convert living rooms to bedrooms in order to squeeze more people into smaller spaces and make more money.
The place is by no means perfect but it’s a far cry from what it is being made out to be and compared to similarly priced “luxurious” one bed flats (reality: tiny, squalid bed sits) that I looked at before moving in here it suits me just fine.
If the council really want to improve conditions for those in the private rented sector perhaps they should really be looking at the effect that investment in sufficient good quality council-run accommodation would have on decreasing demand, thereby lowering private rents and increasing quality?
"No means of escape in an emergency, poor sanitation, and a lack of basic facilities.", "overcrowded". The language being used by the council and repeated by this article paints to me a picture of impoverished twenty-something artists living in dingy squats, sleeping on dirty mattresses strewn on the floors of run down and abandoned buildings with no heating, lighting or toilets. I'm in my mid-thirties, in a professional career and have been living in one of these warehouse conversions for almost three years now and I don't recognise that as the place I live at all. I share a conversion with twenty or so others, all gainfully employed, some artistic, others not. Each of us has our own room at least 4m x 4m with central heating and an opening window. Our large kitchen has everything you'd expect (we even have a dishwasher for God's sake!) and share an adequate number of toilets and showers and (not including the possibility of escaping through a window) there are three fire exits. We also have an enormous amount of shared living space which means we can watch films together on our projector, we can play pool on the table we clubbed to together to buy, there’s space for the piano and instruments that musical housemates own and there’s plenty of room for us to just relax and socialise – something that these days is severely lacking in most private rented accommodation as landlords increasingly convert living rooms to bedrooms in order to squeeze more people into smaller spaces and make more money. The place is by no means perfect but it’s a far cry from what it is being made out to be and compared to similarly priced “luxurious” one bed flats (reality: tiny, squalid bed sits) that I looked at before moving in here it suits me just fine. If the council really want to improve conditions for those in the private rented sector perhaps they should really be looking at the effect that investment in sufficient good quality council-run accommodation would have on decreasing demand, thereby lowering private rents and increasing quality? Simon-FR

10:26am Mon 20 Jan 14

bobbyj9999 says...

I too am a resident in one of the warehouse conversions in Haringey, also in my mid thirties and must agree with the comments above. Our unit is in compliance with all fire and building regulations and I do not recognise the picture painted in either this article or in the language that the council has used. The one thing that no-one from the council or media seems to be talking about is the one thing that every local government spokesperson since time immemorial has trumpeted as one of their key aims...community. In a London which is increasingly fragmented and individualistic to the point of selfishness, I have found these past three years enriching for me in so many ways. I know and like my neighbours, the vast majority of whom are open and welcoming to whoever comes through their often unlocked front doors. We share food, conversation, knowledge and laughter in a way that I have never come across before. The sense of collective well-being is held above the needs of the individual. Not through some stupid, naive, hippy code but through shared values of kindness, openness and community. These are the things which are increasingly missing from many people's lives and I am lucky to be in a place where they are the defiinig principles. That is not to say that there are not problems. I personally welcome council scrutiny into our homes...the fires in Omega Works last year highlighted a problem with some of the less well built units and as our existence has become more widely known about, more and more people have been turning up to what were designed a moderately sized parties. This has led to understandable tension and mistrust from our neighbours which has done us no favours. The reactive narrative is SO easy to write, as the article above proves, ticking all the obvious boxes to inflame people against us. The reality is a much more nuanced picture. We are a community of diverse, interesting, interested people trying to live in a more caring, gentle way. The onus is on both us and our neighbours to try and bridge the gap in understanding to the benefit of all concerned, rather than demonising and disrespecting each other's lifestyle choices.
I too am a resident in one of the warehouse conversions in Haringey, also in my mid thirties and must agree with the comments above. Our unit is in compliance with all fire and building regulations and I do not recognise the picture painted in either this article or in the language that the council has used. The one thing that no-one from the council or media seems to be talking about is the one thing that every local government spokesperson since time immemorial has trumpeted as one of their key aims...community. In a London which is increasingly fragmented and individualistic to the point of selfishness, I have found these past three years enriching for me in so many ways. I know and like my neighbours, the vast majority of whom are open and welcoming to whoever comes through their often unlocked front doors. We share food, conversation, knowledge and laughter in a way that I have never come across before. The sense of collective well-being is held above the needs of the individual. Not through some stupid, naive, hippy code but through shared values of kindness, openness and community. These are the things which are increasingly missing from many people's lives and I am lucky to be in a place where they are the defiinig principles. That is not to say that there are not problems. I personally welcome council scrutiny into our homes...the fires in Omega Works last year highlighted a problem with some of the less well built units and as our existence has become more widely known about, more and more people have been turning up to what were designed a moderately sized parties. This has led to understandable tension and mistrust from our neighbours which has done us no favours. The reactive narrative is SO easy to write, as the article above proves, ticking all the obvious boxes to inflame people against us. The reality is a much more nuanced picture. We are a community of diverse, interesting, interested people trying to live in a more caring, gentle way. The onus is on both us and our neighbours to try and bridge the gap in understanding to the benefit of all concerned, rather than demonising and disrespecting each other's lifestyle choices. bobbyj9999

4:20pm Mon 20 Jan 14

tottenhammick says...

The council are looking for tax,that's all there bothered about,not anyone's safety,that's for sur.
The council are looking for tax,that's all there bothered about,not anyone's safety,that's for sur. tottenhammick

4:35pm Mon 20 Jan 14

andrewxtaylor says...

How do the Lib Dems figure that "up to 6000 people" can be evicted from 727 bedrooms? I'm no prude, but those are some very unusual living arrangements right there... or are they just lying and making it up as they go along again? Sometimes if you just spout a constant torrent of lies and exaggeration some of it might stick. Either that or you might just be figured for liars and voted out. We'll see...
How do the Lib Dems figure that "up to 6000 people" can be evicted from 727 bedrooms? I'm no prude, but those are some very unusual living arrangements right there... or are they just lying and making it up as they go along again? Sometimes if you just spout a constant torrent of lies and exaggeration some of it might stick. Either that or you might just be figured for liars and voted out. We'll see... andrewxtaylor

4:40pm Mon 20 Jan 14

bobbyj9999 says...

tottenhammick:

I, and everyone I know in the warehouses are taxpayers. The myth about us being a bunch of feckless benefit cheats is simply that...a myth. In fact, I would argue that we are rather large net contributors to the local economy both in terms of our spending within Haringey businesses and in terms of the incredibly low occurrence of housing benefit or jobless claims from within the community. I'd suggest that it's more to do with the proposed use of the sites as designated business development zones. Big money is attempted to trump human issues...as always.
tottenhammick: I, and everyone I know in the warehouses are taxpayers. The myth about us being a bunch of feckless benefit cheats is simply that...a myth. In fact, I would argue that we are rather large net contributors to the local economy both in terms of our spending within Haringey businesses and in terms of the incredibly low occurrence of housing benefit or jobless claims from within the community. I'd suggest that it's more to do with the proposed use of the sites as designated business development zones. Big money is attempted to trump human issues...as always. bobbyj9999

1:35pm Tue 21 Jan 14

lalala1101 says...

This article is poorly researched.

I live in a converted warehouse (and have done for 5 years) in our warehouse there are professionals from all walks of life; including barristers, company directors and near-retirees. Warehouses are a nice communal way of living - and the ones I have experienced/seen (20-30) are all constructed in a good standard with living conditions better than most let houses or flats.

In my experience the landlords (who often also live in the warehouses) are genuine and provide a high quality service. Far better than any agency let place I have ever stayed in.

The council are wrong and Simon Stiel should talk to a few of the residents before pushing out council peddled lies. They are looking to spend £600k of tax payers money on what will essentially disrupt the lives of hard working people who contribute to society. They can probably expect a bit of a fight - which will probably cost the borough a few hundred thousand pounds more.

By all means - make sure fire regs are adhered to. But otherwise send it on something useful.
This article is poorly researched. I live in a converted warehouse (and have done for 5 years) in our warehouse there are professionals from all walks of life; including barristers, company directors and near-retirees. Warehouses are a nice communal way of living - and the ones I have experienced/seen (20-30) are all constructed in a good standard with living conditions better than most let houses or flats. In my experience the landlords (who often also live in the warehouses) are genuine and provide a high quality service. Far better than any agency let place I have ever stayed in. The council are wrong and Simon Stiel should talk to a few of the residents before pushing out council peddled lies. They are looking to spend £600k of tax payers money on what will essentially disrupt the lives of hard working people who contribute to society. They can probably expect a bit of a fight - which will probably cost the borough a few hundred thousand pounds more. By all means - make sure fire regs are adhered to. But otherwise send it on something useful. lalala1101

2:17pm Tue 21 Jan 14

amacleod says...

I'm also a resident of this area in my early thirties, full-time employed. I share a unit with only one other person, also full-time employed. Our converted unit is plusher and certainly more spacious than most purpose-built homes that I've been in around London. And absolutely complies with all safety/build regulations. This article is nonsense.

Also; 6000 people divided by 727 bedrooms = 8 people in a bedroom? Check your maths.
I'm also a resident of this area in my early thirties, full-time employed. I share a unit with only one other person, also full-time employed. Our converted unit is plusher and certainly more spacious than most purpose-built homes that I've been in around London. And absolutely complies with all safety/build regulations. This article is nonsense. Also; 6000 people divided by 727 bedrooms = 8 people in a bedroom? Check your maths. amacleod

3:11pm Tue 21 Jan 14

Brian Moreau says...

This is a complete pack of lies, how do I know? I live in one of those units.
Ok 1 or 2 units maybe do fit that description but the majority have living conditions far better than you find offered by private landlords offering damp flats and tiny room with rotten facilities that they never fix!
This is slander to gain public support for a wider so called rejuvenation process that will see the police station and hospital removed from the map so they can get millions from the building of a supermarket and build home that we simply can’t afford to buy.
As for the refuge issue they are probably sick of me phoning every week because they fail to take our rubbish away weekly.
It is not “unacceptable for landlords to be offering industrial units as places to live” we are manly business professionals living in live / work units creating visions of the future in a technology hub.
These units offer facilities and space ideal for young creative people starting in business that would simply be impossible to do in any other living environment.
Many of these people have started a number of successful schemes that have transformed the area from an otherwise derelict site that was the victim of recession.
We don’t quite amount to 6000 but we will all be signing everything we can to object to these plans.
This is a complete pack of lies, how do I know? I live in one of those units. Ok 1 or 2 units maybe do fit that description but the majority have living conditions far better than you find offered by private landlords offering damp flats and tiny room with rotten facilities that they never fix! This is slander to gain public support for a wider so called rejuvenation process that will see the police station and hospital removed from the map so they can get millions from the building of a supermarket and build home that we simply can’t afford to buy. As for the refuge issue they are probably sick of me phoning every week because they fail to take our rubbish away weekly. It is not “unacceptable for landlords to be offering industrial units as places to live” we are manly business professionals living in live / work units creating visions of the future in a technology hub. These units offer facilities and space ideal for young creative people starting in business that would simply be impossible to do in any other living environment. Many of these people have started a number of successful schemes that have transformed the area from an otherwise derelict site that was the victim of recession. We don’t quite amount to 6000 but we will all be signing everything we can to object to these plans. Brian Moreau

3:41pm Tue 21 Jan 14

Jeremy_G says...

As a resident of one of these warehouses, I ALSO, like all the posters above, completely reject the picture painted of us and our live/work units.

We work, we pay taxes, our units are clean and secure, we have all the mod-cons that any other unit in London has. Except we also have space that we can utilize for our business and creative pursuits.

I hope that this is just a misunderstanding, and that the council doesn't really thing we are being FORCED (??) to live here. We are here because we make use of the space available for work AND artistry.

Who would want to destroy a wonderfully creative, positive and contributing community?
As a resident of one of these warehouses, I ALSO, like all the posters above, completely reject the picture painted of us and our live/work units. We work, we pay taxes, our units are clean and secure, we have all the mod-cons that any other unit in London has. Except we also have space that we can utilize for our business and creative pursuits. I hope that this is just a misunderstanding, and that the council doesn't really thing we are being FORCED (??) to live here. We are here because we make use of the space available for work AND artistry. Who would want to destroy a wonderfully creative, positive and contributing community? Jeremy_G

4:38pm Tue 21 Jan 14

G Billington says...

tottenhammick wrote:
The council are looking for tax,that's all there bothered about,not anyone's safety,that's for sur.
The council are getting tax from majority of these warehouses already. They just have no clue what is going on. Bit ironic now that the tax that, we residents of the warehouses pay, is now being used to kick us out...
[quote][p][bold]tottenhammick[/bold] wrote: The council are looking for tax,that's all there bothered about,not anyone's safety,that's for sur.[/p][/quote]The council are getting tax from majority of these warehouses already. They just have no clue what is going on. Bit ironic now that the tax that, we residents of the warehouses pay, is now being used to kick us out... G Billington

6:20pm Thu 23 Jan 14

tottenhammick says...

My comment was not meant about council tax evasion,it was about the council using regulations to collect tax,finding more people to disrupt in there pursuit of money.
My comment was not meant about council tax evasion,it was about the council using regulations to collect tax,finding more people to disrupt in there pursuit of money. tottenhammick

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