As many of you will know I tweet out housing news stories all week that have caught my eye for one reason or another, hoping they might pique my followers interest.
Then, when it comes time to write this news round article I gather together all my tweets for the week and see what I have been paying attention to.
The interesting thing about doing it this way is that whereas I can get lost in the stories on a day to day basis, once you gather your week’s snippets you can see it in a different light, like a snapshot of what is going on in housing land that captures the Zeitgeist. A birds eye view if you will.
London stories always feature large for me because I was born and brought up here, so I watch my home city carefully.
Wil Self on London
Which was why I was drawn to an entertaining article in the Telegraph by Will Self, talking about his conversations with the philosopher John Gray about where London is going with all this gentrification and last week’s surprise announcement (a surprise only to everyone who doesn’t work for councils) that many London boroughs are looking to send benefit tenants and homeless applicants ‘Oop North’.
John Gray suggested:
“London will become a sort of Singapore, I think, a wealthy island of urbanity surrounded by impoverished satrapies.”
As usual when reading anything by Will Self it can be useful to have a dictionary to hand. Satrapies (see Dictionary.com) are apparently districts bordering a ‘Satrap’, a Persian protector of the country…….go figure.
Will’s most entertaining and I think accurate quote was on the impending London elections when he said:-
“Naturally, the next London mayor – whoever he may be – will continue as a cheerleader for the Stratford Festival of Running and Jumping – how could it be otherwise? The mayoralty is all about PR – and the Olympics is nothing but a PR exercise to sell the city”.
Being one of those odd boys who doesn’t like sport I totally agree with him. [Hear, hear – I don’t like sport either – Ed]
And he is off again, with another side issue to divert attention away from the fact that his housing strategy, when manacled in a 3 legged race to the government’s obsession with benefit cuts is causing more homelessness and misery.
Grant announced this week the creation of a task force to deal with the growing crisis of beds in sheds. Reported in a lot of places but here on the BBC (Why can I never say BBC in the privacy of my own head without dropping the tone of my internal voice and going all posh?)
Now don’t get me wrong. Beds in sheds is a fairly new phenomena and I wouldn’t argue with the fact that they are dirty, cramped, dangerous and attract rats, not least of which vermin are the landlords who rent them out.
My problem is that although it is a problem that should be addressed it seem to me to be another example, along with houseboats and regenerating high streets, of focusing energy and attention on peripheral issues while the more substantial problems are either not being tackled or are getting worse.
The words ‘Deckchairs’ and ‘Titanic’ spring to mind.
Am I getting cynical in me old age or is there another possible explanation? It hasn’t escaped my notice that there is another element to this which seems to be being jemmied in to the announcement. Forced repatriation seems to underpin it.
Shed dwellers tend to be immigrants and many of them are illegal immigrants, also being exploited by their own countrymen, which is usually the case but is the issue a housing one or an immigration one? And if it’s both, how did that happen?
Housing / Immigration ministers unite
Well it transpires that for this initiative Shapps’s housing crew have teamed up with Immigration minister David Green for a 2 pronged approach. Shapps pointing up the housing issue said:
“I want to see a crackdown on these criminal landlords.”
While Mr Green said:
“Those with no right to be in the UK must leave the country. If they volunteer to leave, we will help. If they refuse, we will enforce their removal.”
In the 1970s Enoch Powell just blatantly talked about, he didn’t try to cloak it in a different issue. Look at the political logic of it. You take a basic hoary old issue like “Send ‘em all back home’ and dress it up as concern for their welfare, easier to get it through.
Not that illegal immigration isn’t a problem to be tackled but I’m aware of the concepts of ‘5 Steps to tyranny’ where extremist behavior can be ushered in through easy, socially acceptable stepping stones, so I am nervous of such talk.
Shelter have a plan …
And while Grant Shapps and Mr Green (a character from Reservoir Dogs?) are looking to export immigrants and London councils look to export the poor, Shelter have a plan to export rogue landlords from Liverpool.
As reported in Housing Excellence this week , Shelter head Campbell Robb said:
“We must evict rogue landlords from the city and we urge the new Mayor to make sure this is top of his agenda as he takes up office.”
Their campaign “Rotten Homes Liverpool” is an interesting development. The article says:
“The charity invited Liverpudlians to come down to find out how they can help evict rogue landlords from the city”.
Maybe I’m being thick but I don’t see how you could evict a landlord for running crappy properties. You can prosecute them for sure but evict? I don’t get it. Maybe someone could respond to this and explain how it works, I’m all for a new idea.
Is this just an announcement that in practice cant be done? Like Ken Livingstone’s insistence that he will cap London rents if we vote for him?
Lucrative student lets
Finally I picked up on Property 118 this week how student lets have become so lucrative that corporates are investing millions into properties. The article reports that only 30% of student accommodation comes through halls of residence, the rest is picked up by the PRS.
This is a weird development don’t you think? Years ago students were as vilified as potential tenants in the same way that people on benefits are today. Landlords often held negative prejudices about drink and parties, but now they are rapidly becoming a perceived golden opportunity of Harry Potter look-alikes with perfect manners and an armful of books.
Or perhaps more accurately, the larger corporate investors have been informed about the notion of ‘Guarantors’, nice middle class parents living in detached houses in Worcester with oodles of equity just in case.
Maybe there will come a time when a person on Job seekers allowance and illegal immigrants will also have their public profile reversed. If that can happen maybe Grant Shapps is in with a chance. Maybe there will come a day when the housing minister will be perceived a someone who isn’t a self serving, mendacious little rat-bag.
I have a dream…..as Martin Luther King once said
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben’s runs Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties, 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.