[Ben Reeve Lewis is reviewing his music collection this week …]
Back to the future
Back in the 1960s Bob Dylan sang ‘The times they area changin’, whilst the world was going through seismic social evolution.
In the 1970s The Who sang ‘We won’t get fooled again”, an anthem based on the lessons we were all learning from the revelations of Watergate.
In the 1980s Michael Jackson sang “What about us?” in response to the on-going attack on the environment by the human race and;
In the 1990s Chas and Dave sang ‘I’m developing a beer belly’, and they were right…..I was!…Isn’t that an amazing prophecy?????
And it is in this spirit of cultural analysis that I turn my surprised eye (as opposed to my other eye which continues to remain unsurprised) to the latest raft of housing news as we all sink deeper into the mire. Incidentally why do they refer to a collection as a Raft? There is certainly no good news to cling to this week.
What prompted my latest news round was the surprising discovery on website 24 Dash that the Isle of Wight council are renovating a couple of public toilets to sell as living accommodation for £150,000 a pop.
For a while now Shapps has bleated on about the need to use boats and caravans as homes and now we are down to using khazis!!!!!
Bob Dylan’s own times a’ changin’ were embodied by naked people dancing around with flowers in their hair to Jimi Hendrix singing Purple Haze……the cultural embodiment of our times is people living in bogs!!!! What a depressing turn-around.
Things really do seem to be getting a bit desperate don’t they?
I am struck by parallels to people in World War 2, when Britain erected pre-fabs across the land to house the homeless. Residents of Hanoi took to tunnels under the city as a respite from carpet bombing in the Vietnam War (still officially referred to as a ‘Policing Action’ if you read carefully), and the Jews of Lvov taking to the sewers to avoid Nazi persecution.
Things are made to look less desperate these days because today’s prospective sewer dwellers and tunnelers have 52” flat screen TVs and iPhones which mask the fact that things are still getting pretty grim. Frazzy and I are both full time workers with several outside projects between us that bring in extra cash and even we have our tentative eyes on a lovely little cardboard box with its own flaps, whose views can be varied with a bit of judicial and creative positioning.
Meanwhile Inside Housing reported on statements made by Lord Fraud ….sorry, Lord Freud (I have a sticky key on the keyboard) in which he confesses to a certain cynicism about housing associations and councils concern over the payment of housing benefit made directly to tenants is being extended to social tenants as well. He said
“‘I am slightly cynical around this argument. There currently is a choice for tenants, but not a real choice due to the imbalance of power in favour of landlords. [This reform] is not about rolling this around to the convenience of the big battalions.’
Come on all you Cognitive Linguists out there…do you see what he did there?????? He refers to an imbalance of power between landlords and tenants which suggests he is on the tenant’s side and that social landlords are by definition, the villains of the piece.
Also, in calling social landlords “The big battalions” he cleverly draws on military metaphors to create distance between front-line troops (the tenants) and the social landlords who are made impersonal by being represented at an organisational level. Thus, invoking well entrenched race memories about Lions led by Donkeys.
I’m sorry if that sounds wordy or academic but I’m actually not taking the pee for once, cognitive linguistics is my background and linguistically that is exactly what he is doing. If you don’t believe me read George Lakoff’s assessment of how conservatives use language to dominate. the aim is to reframe an argument in deliberate ways to slant the reader’s perceptions of what is being said.
At the non-linguistic end what does this mean? Well many landlords will know of the disastrous and unpopular system of HB payments going direct to tenants that has driven private landlords away from HB tenants in droves, well now it is being extended to social landlords as well.
Last Wednesday I was training a group of housing officers in West Wales on the law surrounding possession proceedings and we discussed this. Like private landlords, housing associations are dependent on keeping rent arrears down. One very experienced housing officer of over 20 years in the game said to me “If this comes in we are finished”.
Why oh why do the government not listen to the people who do the jobs?
This retrograde housing history trip continues this week with Westminster council’s plans to re-prioritise their housing allocations system, slanting it towards people who have been in employment for 2 years or people who have been resident in the borough for at least 10 years.
Julie Ford, in a very perceptive article on Property 118 said
“Under the Westminster plans, up to 800 people in work and their families could benefit while a similar number of unemployed people would be shunted down the waiting list. Does this employment lottery really look to solve the problem of ‘dole scroungers’ who shy away from work of any type? Or will it force vulnerable families out on the street if they are unable to work?”
Well put Julie. While politicians involved in housing try to ‘Daily Mail-ise’ everything (just look at Mike Weatherly’s response to the lawyers letter on squatting laws), Westminster Council, unsurprisingly for them, push housing back to the poorhouse days, where you couldn’t stay in them unless you were working.
Continuing back in time Inside Housing report this week of the Connors family of Leighton Buzzard who face trial for keeping slaves although I can’t imagine traveller Mr. Connors sharing a communal bath with his personal attendant and exchanging ideas about the morality of preferring Oysters over Snails (You have to have seen Spartacus to get that joke) Having said that I can’t see Mr. Connors having a bath at all.
So if we are going back in time with our housing, lets ‘av it large and go the distance!!! I have a suggestion that I would like all Landlord Law Blog readers to back.
Let’s mount a campaign to oust Grant Shapps as housing minister and elect Mr. Micawber in his place. I don’t think he will be able to change a thing but he is someone we can relate to as we clamber across the rooftops of Victorian London trying to avoid the bailiffs.
Or let’s take it even further back to basics and re-introduce strip farming, villeins and serfs. A housing Year-Zero. It worked for Pol Pot, why not us?????? It didn’t do him any harm did it? Nobody in power seems to have any decisive ideas, other than to write housing policy on the back of a fag packet particularly Alison Seabeck, so why not???
People of Britain let’s hear it for Mr. Micawber and Sir Humphrey de Bohun.
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben has started Home Saving Expert, to share his secrets to defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties and catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.