[Ben Reeve Lewis finds it funny ...]
I wonder sometimes if my daily exposure to human misery hasn’t given me a twisted sense of humour.
That falling feeling
This week a case came to me of a young woman who had been coerced into giving the keys to her flat back after her boyfriend, who Frazzy would refer to in her Caribbean parlance as a ‘Wotless nomark’ ( “waste of space”), had been growing marijuana in a tent situated in the bedroom.
He is very well known to the police and they raided the house earlier in the week, kicked in the door and began to search for various bits of evidence to curtail his very tenuous bail conditions.
He was nowhere to be seen but as investigating officers searched the flat they heard a creak, then a crunch……then a cracking sound and the fugitive, who had taken refuge in the loft, fell through the ceiling and collapsed in a dusty heap at their feet on the living room floor.
As the tenant told me about this I collapsed into laughter but when I told the story to other colleagues their first question was whether or not he had hurt himself.
I confess that my concern for his welfare took 15th place compared to the comedy value of the story. Frankly it never occurred to me to ask.
Maybe I’ve been in the job too long.
No social housing here
Now I’m aware that my Friday piece is very London centric. I can’t help that, I live and work here, and accordingly my jaded and unsympathetic eye was this week drawn to and article in The Londonist, about the ongoing farrago of our failure to build our way out of the housing crisis.
London is 809,000 homes short of a picnic but Boris’s measly proposal is to create only 250,000 new ones and if that isn’t bad enough, while one of the cornerstones of this Tory government’s (philosophy????) has been ‘Localism’ the Londonist reveals that most of the planning is being given to overseas investors. Last weekend the Capital Towers development in Stratford held it’s sales launch exclusively in Malaysia.
Cant you just see the lovable pearly Kings of Stratford doing the Lambeth walk in Kuala Lumpur in a spontaneous outburst of sheer, localised joy?
The article also goes on to point out:-
“You can see its advertising brochure above, proudly announcing that the development contains “NO SOCIAL HOUSING!”. A City Hall spokesman told the Evening Standard that developers Galliard are making a contribution towards Newham Council’s affordable housing fund, so the Mayor saw no reason not to sign off the project”.
Of the same subject the Guardian reported on Ed Moribund…..sorry, Ed Miliband’s announcement that Labour will kick start a huge building programme if elected.
200,000 new homes per year by 2020 yelled the decidedly uninspiring candidate at this week’s party conference.
A radical new solution to the housing crisis
Meanwhile Shelter reported that Vince Cable of the Lib Dems, remember them? They’re in power so I’m told, announced at their party meeting that housing will be centre stage at the next election
“Senior politicians and activists are accepting the dire state of our dysfunctional market. And they are hungry for solutions.”
Says Mr C.
What made me gasp with astonishment was this sentence:-
“Party President Tim Farron hosted a late night fringe event that asked activists how to build more affordable homes”
Erm…..aren’t you in government? Is it unreasonable to expect you to have some idea about that yourself Tim?
What also astonishes me is the fact that several years into the catastrophe that is our current housing situation the Lib Dems are announcing the immanent centre-staging of it as if it is a radical and unseen solution.
Should we all be cheering at the audacity of this terrific wheeze? Nodding sagely at each other as we say “Thank god we picked the right ones to lead us. I’d never have spotted that on my own”.
Everyone in housing has been screaming about building new homes for years while nothing actually happens but what is the old Zen saying? “When the master points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger”.
Local authorities hamper housing
A report by the Home Builder’s Federation complains that new building projects are being hampered by local authorities imposing too many pre-conditions
The Executive chair of the HBF, Stewart Baseley says:-
“Local Authorities must ensure planning conditions are not overly onerous or unrealistic otherwise, despite the success of Help to Buy, the much needed increase in housing supply will be held back.”
But is it the onerous planning details or the backlog of work?
Looking at my desk this morning I tend towards the latter view (see pic) Believe it or not I work in what is called a ‘Paperless office’ ha-ha and other fantasies. Shameful really, and yes that’s a muffin you see sitting on top of my copy of Defending Possession Proceedings. I dare say all planning officers desks look the same.
South East Asian architecture rules?
Here’s a radical idea. If London properties are being sold exclusively in Malaysia why not let Malaysian planning laws dictate how we build? Its localism of a sort, I mean, as they say, everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.
I would quite like to see more South East Asian inspired architecture around the capital. Imagine North Peckham Estate being made over to look like the Buddhist temple of Ankor Wat? Admittedly the redesign wouldn’t be able to remove the smell of piss from the communal stairs but at least it would look nice from the road.
Forget mock Tudor or Barratt Homes, the astonishing blight that is the now defunct Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle, a mere 200 yards from Anthony Gold’s Walworth Road office could be knocked down and replaced with a copy of Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market.
Just a thought.
Finally I enjoyed Steve Hilditch’s piece on Red Brick looking at Nick Clegg’s record as what Steve calls “The abominable Yes man”.
“60% cuts in housing investment? Yes! End social housing? Yes! Put social rents up to 80% of market rents? Yes! Bedroom Tax? Oh yes please! Make large parts of the country unaffordable to people in and out of work who need housing benefit? Yes! A new housing bubble? Yes! End security of tenure? Yes! Increase homelessness? Yes! Slash the homelessness safety net? Yes! Let Boris remove all progressive policies from the London Plan? Yes! Vote against own ‘Mansion Tax’ policy? Yes! And on it goes.”
You don’t have to be a socialist like Steve to find some sense in what he is saying. I have no interest in any form of party politics but I think I am by nature some form of liberal, not Clegg’s kind you understand.
I think I may well be a Victorian style one, from the stable of John Stuart-Mill or Thomas Hill-Green….I quite fancy the mutton-chop whiskers and to my mind Nick Clegg and his ilk would be better showcased at Crufts than the house of commons. A political pug or Chihuahua that can be popped into Cameron’s handbag when he gets tired.
See ya next week.