[Ben Reeve Lewis is thoughtful …]
I’m in a pondering mood this week.
Have you noticed the dearth of Chinese DVD sellers in the car parks of Tesco lately?
Not so long ago my local branch had at least three working in shifts, walking up to you with a smile, a shoulder bag weighing them down and a brace of freshly minted copies in their hands, uttering their single English phrase “DVD?”.
Until now I always thought they were just folks trying to get by, earning 50p here and there so I would often buy one as a form of human solidarity, but I’ve been discovering it’s more complicated than that.
The reason why most of the car park sellers have disappeared is because the selling arm of the business has moved into a lot of convenience stores, as has some cannabis sales, so you can now pop out for a pint of milk, a packet of Rich Tea, a £20 bag of Skunk and the latest Matt Damon flick, if you know the right shops (My up to date list is available for £5….just email me).
In my new role in rogue landlord enforcement we have been raiding quite a few properties in the company of our trading standards dodgy DVD team. The other night we got into a property and found 10 towers of DVD burners, each capable of making 11 copies at a time, plus 60,000 burnt DVDs ready to ship and all for sale at £6.50.
Quickly whips out calculator…..that’s £390,000 worth.
So these sellers must be millionaires yes? … No, the said fact is that the industry is gang backed and the poor sods who get arrested and walk into pubs with holdalls full of the things, are usually working for 50p, paying off debts to Triads for bringing them into the country.
Of course that’s if they aren’t lucky enough to be forced into the sex trade or tending death trap cannabis farms.
Think again before being tempted by the latest ‘Despicable Me’. You aren’t doing them a favour at all.
But I’ll tell you who is handing out favours this week, Camden Council in North London.
Camden for the Camdenites
They have drafted in LSE housing professor Christine Whitehead in an attempt to come up with ways to get landlords to lower their rents so that Camdenites can actually live there.
Camden is cursed with being both posh and trendy in many of it’s parts (although you wouldn’t think that if you saw Kings Cross) and this alone creates a premium, so Camden are considering offering private landlords financial incentives to keep rents in line with inflation.
The incentives are to come in the form of ‘Loans for capital repairs’. Councillor Julian Fulbrook announced:
“Many of them (landlords) have already said they welcome this.”
No shit Sherlock? You surprise me.
Now you would think that conservative councillors, who also happen to be landlords would welcome this but no. Jonny Bucknell who is both, responded:
“What has worked incredibly well is deregulation and the private market has taken off. Any whiff of regulation could put people off coming into the market.”
Hmmmm…worked well for who Jonny? You?…certainly not the tenants.
Tesco in trouble?
I was surprised to read on 24 Dash that Tesco is ‘Embattled’ and announcing a profits warning.
I thought they were the most successful supermarket in the country, but apparently not so. They have been land-banking 310 sites that were to have stores built on them and are instead going to be building 4,000 new homes.
The article doesn’t go into why they are struggling financially. I’m presuming it’s the loss of the DVD sellers as free doormen.
Still 4,000 homes, that should help. Only another 216,000 to go and rents will come tumbling down. Rubs hands in gleeful anticipation.
Bringing down the Orchards
And talking of tumbling down, residents of a Salford housing estate are sending hats flying into the air, cheering on the immanent demolition of the hated housing project known as ‘the Orchards’.
New Order Bass Guitarist Peter Hook who grew up on the estate pronounced it:
“Rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland”.
In fact Hooky’s words were inscribed on the side of one of the buildings earmarked for demolition and the panel will be salvaged for posterity.
Chief Executive of Together Housing group Steve Close said that when completed the new development will be:
“Transforming the area from ‘rotten and horrible, concrete wasteland’ to a ‘modern, urban community for people to live, play and enjoy.”
Apparently the new plans involve:
“New parks and walking routes, an extra care village, a community farm and new sport facilities”.
In the past 20 years councils have woken up to the concept of regeneration and have grasped what makes communities nice places to live, so what was going on in the minds of town planners of the 60s and 70s I wonder?
What were they thinking of?
I’m not being sarcy, it was before my time in housing and I genuinely wonder what made them think that concrete wastelands were ok? Perhaps its that they were cheaper to build without all those fancy infrastructures and more importantly, they didn’t have to live in them.
The one I grew up on has been known locally as ‘Crack City’ for about 20 years. City Farms? Pah….but it has got a convenience store where you can buy dodgy DVDs and a bag of genetically modified Skunk now, so its progress of a sort I suppose.
And finally I went over to read HMO landlady’s blog for a laugh but found her also in a pondering mood this week, telling the story of a homeless man she tried to help, who didn’t really want it.
Choosing to be homeless
She asked him why he was homeless and he said he couldn’t raise a deposit or rent in advance. HMO Landlady offered to front up both. He didn’t take her up on the offer.
Its one of those weird things that people who don’t work with the homeless often don’t get. Serena does and she puts her money where her heart is.
I started off as an 18 year old working in the old DHSS doss houses with the real old down and outs and that’s one of the first things I noticed, some people prefer or have at least become accustomed to an itinerant lifestyle, much as this seems ludicrous to most of us.
In those days when social housing was freely available we used to re-settle the guys, give them all free white goods only to find a month later they had abandoned it and gone back to the life they knew.
It’s a complex old world this homelessness malarkey.
The joke at the end
I usually try to end on an up but didn’t manage it, so as an alternative, how about a joke from my favourite comedian Tim Vine.
“So I got back to my car and there was a note on it saying ‘Parking Fine’. I thought great, always nice to get a compliment”
See ya next week.