Well of bloody course

Councils told to sell most valuable houses to build more affordable homes
Councils told to sell most valuable houses as research finds that one in five tenants are living in properties worth more than nearby private homes.

Sell the expensive stuff to build cheap stuff. Why the hell not?

Mostly it\’s location that makes them expensive after all. That cost of planning permission.

Critics warned that it would lead to “social cleansing”, with low-paid workers progressively moved out of more expensive areas.

Err, yes, and?

Don\’t we actually want to maximise the volume of subsidised housing for whatever limited amount we\’re prepared to pay on subsidising it?

18 comments on “Well of bloody course

  1. You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

    But there’s a school of thought (and I do understand the irony of using this term when referring to ‘Guardian’ or ‘Indy’ columnists) that proclaims that a ‘social mix’ of rich and poor is desirable.

    When pushed to explain why, they are rarely convincing, though.

  2. The social mix argument is a tricky one. My area of west London isn’t so much a mixed community but a parallel one.

    My Bayswater neighbourhood is either wealthy 20 and 30 something professionals or OAPs living on the state pension.

    Unfortunately all the local facilities, from shops to pubs, are geared to catering for high spending young bankers and lawyers.

    The local pub where retired Frank used to meet his mates for a game of dominoes is now a gastropub serving £5 premium lagers. And he looks utterly bewildered, by the produce and prices, wandering around Waitrose which recently replaced Budgens.

    The Left rail against the prospects of ghettoisation without seeming to realise that it already exists in many areas.

  3. As Shinsei says (#2), social housing or housing benefit don’t make mixed communities, but 2 parallel communities – one on subsidised housing and one wealthy.

    It squeezes out is the middle, whose incomes are too high for subsidy but who can’t afford the unsubsidised costs.

    And those unsubsidised costs are greater because part of the housing stock is taken out of the market by being used for social housing.

    So arguably social housing and housing benefit actually cause social apartheid. But since the victims are in the middle, no-one seems to care.

  4. But I suspect Tim is wrong about the motivation of social housing. Isn’t it about social engineering, rather than maximising the volume?

  5. Although I disagree in principle with the social engineering of a “social mix” of rich and poor, I suspect that at least to some extent it does have a levelling up effect on the behaviour of the poor. Which is not to say there are no better ways of achieving the same goal, just that it is not without merit in its own terms.

  6. “…I suspect that at least to some extent it does have a levelling up effect on the behaviour of the poor.”

    I rather doubt it. In at least one of the publicised cases – the most recent one – the woman was about to be evicted for ASB of her children…

  7. Edward Lud (#7) – I would guess not in a very divided (only very rich & very poor) community, as the two probably don’t interact much (except for buying drugs).

    If there was to be levelling up of behaviour, I would expect it more in a properly mixed community

  8. Julia M

    It depends where you are talking about, rural areas are increasingly off limits to the lower earners particularly the young. You might not think that matters but there is still work to do in the country and those doing it are often left isolated. Children in particular can have a hard time if they are at a school where all their classmates are in a completely different social bracket. It’s one thing to have areas of a city divided up by income but turning the country into a rich man’s ghetto through the daft planning laws is a large part of the reason housing is so expensive, it’s a shocking misuse of resources just so a few people can look out of their windows and not have the view spoiled by a small estate of cheaper housing.

  9. @Rob(3): I always thought that argument a cruel invention until I heard someone make it in all seriousness.

  10. The critics would rather we leave some families in bed and breakfast, so some other social tennants can live in posh areas.

    The current social mix is a myth.
    Central London is populated by the Rich (who can afford to live there) and people in social housing (who are subsidised to live there). The middle class live much further out (or out of London).
    Likewise poorer areas of inner London have the poor and the young middle class who move out as soon as they think about kids or earn better money.

  11. Old Labour (pre-Wilson, Michael Foot etc) thought council housing was to provide decent homes for the poor. So did the Tories (NB Margaret Thatcher was a Whig). “Decent” being interpreted in the context of the times, so in the 1920s council houses had bathrooms and inside toilets, in the 1930s they often did not. Prefabs in the 1940s gave people a roof over their heads until houses were built and the 1950s saw a massive surge in housebuilding that replaced virtually all the slums and an overwhelming majority of the prefabs. Then in the early 60s, when there was no longer a visible housing shortage, housing department bureaucrats decided that council houses had to be built to standard that the average owner-occupier could not afford.
    New Labour does not treat social housing as meeting a need but as providing a core pool of voters who can be relied upon to vote in favour of retaining their subsidy – hence their portrayal of the wishy-washy semi-reform intended to make future tenancies non-inheritable by well-off children as an attack on current tenants.
    If, and that is a big IF, the sale proceeds really are used to build more social housing the policy recommendation is, as the Minister said “blindingly obvious”. Mrs Thatcher’s policy of selling council houses was predicated on the use of the proceeds to build more houses but this was blocked by Treasury Civil Servants who limited investment to sale proceeds less costs lees the authority’s housing debt.

  12. @ Timothy A #12
    Your third paragraph is an over-simplification. There are still some Peabody buildings in Central London and not all of the original residents of the City of London’s Golden Lane estate (mostly retired employees of the City Corporation) have died or moved out; there are Islington and Southwark council estates within running (some would say sprinting) distance of the Bank of England. I agree that you are roughly right.

  13. @ PaulB
    Undermined not overruled. And powerless to do anything about it at the time as she wasn’t told about it.

  14. I think there’s a sound principle here. There are all kinds of low paid jobs in the city center, cleaner, security guard, postman, that do not pay enough to live within easy reach of work. Thus those employees are faced with a choice, either live ten to a room in a central slum or spend half their lives and salaries commuting. Social housing is intended to provide those people with a civilized standard of living.

    There is, of course, no case for giving the career claimant any accommodation that might be better utilised by an actual working person.

    Finally, I thought all those really nice, centrally located, subsidized places went to local Councillors and their families? Isn’t that the real reason why they don’t want to sell them off?

  15. @ Roue le Jour
    In the City of London (unlike socialist-controlled areas nearby), Common Councilmen do not live in subsidised housing. Most of them commute in from owner-occupied property in the suburbs, a very few live in unsubsidised property in the City.

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