My word this is dreadful!

Against that backdrop even the smallest victory looks historic. Up on the northwestern perimeter of London, in West Hendon, other council residents are fighting the borough of Barnet over the redevelopment of their estate on terms that suit the developer, Barratt Developments, not locals. Just under 700 homes are to be smashed up to make way for 2,000 new units. Just under 1,500 will be sold privately: the rest will be “affordable”, which in the doublespeak of housing means unaffordable.

How dare people increase the supply of housing in a city so short of it?

26 thoughts on “My word this is dreadful!”

  1. There might actually be a story of injustice worth telling here but it’s such a terrible mish-mash of an article it’s hard to know, it throws in every possible student newspaper cliche there is, and it’s so shallow that the reader can’t see whether there’s anything there behind the usual Guardian left-wing agit-prop.

  2. “Even with 344,000 households in London awaiting a council home”
    No you idiot, they’re waiting for a home. A home! And if they can own that home, great. And if they find it’s better to rent, fine. And if they rent off the Council, fine too; they won’t be fussed. But they want somebody to build homes, so that there are homes to buy, so that the supply increases and the price drops a little, so they can buy or rent their own home. And they’re not impressed by somebody telling them it isn’t really a home if it isn’t social housing. So the home they want (the only sensible way of ascertaining need) can’t be built because… INEQUALITY and stuff.


  3. It’s a toughie. Most ‘affordable’ homes are still beyond the reach of many; and I’ve watched as residents of ex-council homes, purchased under right-to-buy, are offered a derisory sum in compensation and then booted out. For them, remaining in London is an unaffordable option – they are forced to give way to younger, better qualified (and affluent) incomers. It is happening to white, sarf-London and Hackney Afro-Caribbean residents alike. You could argue that relocating from West Hendon to Jaywick is part of the life cycle.

  4. Yep, what Tank says.

    For owners, there’s an inevitable “problem”. If you own a flat in the grottiest estate in the borough (e.g. Elephant & Castle), then by definition it’s the cheapest flat in the borough, so when you sell you’ll have to move to a different borough. The residents of Hendon featured in the article won’t find new homes nearby; they’ll have to move to not-too-distant Wembley in search of more affordable housing. Is that such a great injustice?

  5. I’m sorry, I fail to see why this is such a toughie. The article itself pointed to the increase in the number of homes (sorry, ‘homes’ replaced by ‘units’). When there is a shortage of supply (let’s call it that for now) then there WILL be rationing. The alternative to price is councils allocating on the basis of ‘need’, their view of need. That inevitably will lead to decisions being made that are unsuitable to the needs that are actually present, that are revealed by economic agents responding to price.

    Coucil tenants being moved on is not nice, let’s not pretend. However, just how truly great a hardship are we talking about.
    And ‘communities’ changing their nature is not even worth discussion in my view.

  6. It would make life a lot easier if instead of referring to “affordable housing” (clearly all housing is affordable to someone) it was called “subsidised housing” which is what it is.

  7. It is also interesting that it is perfectly acceptable behaviour in Guardian land to complain about rich immigrants moving into London and pushing up prices at the top end (all those poor bankers not being able to afford South Ken and having to live in Ealing) but woe betide anyone mention the impact of less wealthy immigrants on the housing market.

  8. I’d argue that the ‘community’ of Hendon and other boroughs has changed quite spectacularly over the past 20-30 years, and celebrated for doing so by the Graun.

    Change wasn’t a problem then.

  9. “1,100 council flats in inner London to be demolished and replaced with 2,500 units, of which only 79 will be for “social rent”.”

    So that’s 1100 properties at “social rent” replaced with 1975 at “social rent”, plus another 525 on the free market.

    The problem here is…what? Incoherent student agitprop bollocks doesn’t even begin to cover this.

  10. bloke (not) in spain

    “Starting this Wednesday, 4,000 men (and, yes, they’ll mainly be men) will gather in a giant hall in London. Among them will be major property developers, billionaire investors and officials of your local council or one nearby. And what they’ll discuss will be the sale of public real estate, prime land already owned by you and me, to the private sector. ”

    There’s your problem, right there. They’re not & weren’t owned by “you or me”, are they? “You & me” being people who live or work pay rates or taxes. They’ve always been owned by councils who’ve had a totally different agenda from the you(s’) & me(s’) interests. Like pursuing social & political agendas totally contrary to those interests.
    “And what they’ll discuss will be the sale of public real estate… to the private sector.”
    That’s the bit where what they stole from you & me gets sold to you & me. For the “private” sector is us.

  11. The Guardian wants there to be a housing shortage because then it has a raison d’etre so it is supporting 40 protestors blocking the building of 4,500 new homes (a net increase of 2,700 dwellings) because they don’t want to move to a different council estate. That’s 67 families homeless for every protestor.

  12. There is actually a scandal here, not that the Graun has worked it out. Barnet’s MO – this is hardly the first estate they’ve done like this – is to drive the estates into the ground with horror tenants, lack of repairs, and finally leaving the places mostly empty, so as to lower the compulsory-purchase prices. They’re effectively stealing maybe a third from everyone who owned a flat on the estates.

  13. “mostly empty” – in London?
    “lack of repairs” – just how long does it take for an owner-occupied house to fall into disrepair, so that a homeless family will refuse to move in? We bought our previous house from a guy with muscular dystrophy who had been physically unable to do any repairs for a decade or more. We took out a £10k mortgage just to pay for the repairs but it was perfectly liveable-in (for an upper-middle-class couple – maybe our standards are lower than Dave’s?) while the repairs were done.
    “horror tenants” – what, some social housing tenants are the problem, not the victims? Don’t let the Graun hear you say that!

  14. @Ironman,

    I think you’ll find that what they want is council housing ie subsidised properties for life and no need to downsize when the family flies the coop.

    At least I assume that’s what the left want as I’ve never seen them rescind Morrison’s promise to build the Tories out of London.

    (Yes PaulB and others I am aware that this story is most likely apocryphal but it does point to a state of mind amongst the left.)

  15. “Affordable”, round where I live, is a euphemism for “council houses”.

    Maybe not in London, though.

  16. @”john77
    October 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm
    “mostly empty” – in London?
    “lack of repairs” – just how long does it take for an owner-occupied house to fall into disrepair, so that a homeless family will refuse to move in? We bought our previous house from a guy with muscular dystrophy who had been physically unable to do any repairs for a decade or more. We took out a £10k mortgage just to pay for the repairs but it was perfectly liveable-in (for an upper-middle-class couple – maybe our standards are lower than Dave’s?) while the repairs were done.”
    I agree 100%. Maybe council tenants have higher standards

  17. John>

    ““mostly empty” – in London?”

    If the council still owns a sizeable chunk of the estate, and move out all the tenants, yes. Once they do that, the privately owned flats become nigh-on unlettable at any price. Obviously if you drop the rent low enough, you can find someone willing to move in for an indeterminate but short period until they’re compulsorily evicted, but it’s hard.

    ““lack of repairs” – just how long does it take for an owner-occupied house to fall into disrepair, so that a homeless family will refuse to move in? ”

    Again, that’s not the point. If you spend a decade or more neglecting the essential maintenance on a block, the value of all the flats in it will tumble. Hell, just not painting anything, or cleaning the lifts/stairs for a few years, will do that.

    At the end of the process, you look around this destroyed estate, full of almost unsaleable properties, and take the ‘market value’ from that for your compulsory purchases. The council and the developer split the difference as profit.

  18. Look at the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle as an example of lease holders were seen off with a low compulsory purchase after the estate was run down.

  19. @Dave
    Who do you think that you are kidding Mr Dave? Do you expect me to believe that the moon is made of blue cheese?
    “If the council still owns a sizeable chunk of the estate, and move out all the tenants, yes.” You have just moved from the council owning “most” to owning “a sizeable chunk” but you are still failing to suspend disbelief. How do the council move out all the tenants? Was there an unreported Ebola epidemic in East Barnet freeing up a couple of thousand council houses to re-let when the tenants and all their children who could claim to inherit a tenancy died within a few weeks? Or has Barnet council and all their housing staff conspired to bribe tenants on one estate to move every time a tenant leaves elsewhere and conceal the property left vacant from those on the waiting list and the district auditor? How long would that take? Well a lot longer than the Conservatives have had uninterrupted control of Barnet council! In the case of one private landlord I have observed a certain tenant in a rent-controlled tenancy out lived three generations of landlord – and you expect me to believe that Barnet council has emptied an estate of all its council tenants.
    “Mostly empty” cannot be caused by a council which owns a minority of the estate when there is a housing shortage in London. The privately-owned dwellings will be occupied.
    You have failed to notice the protest movement featured in the Guardian where 40 tenants are trying to block the building of an extra 2,700 dwellings because they don’t want to move a few miles [not wanting to move is understandable – making/keeping 2,700 families homeless is not].
    “Again, that’s not the point.” Bullshit – it is.
    In a privately-owned block (or in Scotland, at least in the 1940s and 1950s), the occupiers kept the stairs clean. You only need to paint every ten years or so – when I lived in a flat I washed the walls, windows, floors (carpet or Ajax as appropriate) when they needed it but only repainted after I got married and my wife wanted something more cheerful, which was well over 10 years since the original painting.

  20. bloke (not) in spain

    Some input here that might be relevant.
    I’m aware of a cases where a housing association has allowed properties to deteriorate by neglecting to maintain them, then sent a surveyor in who’s adjudged the building “beyond economic repair”. The tenants are then offered rehousing. In the case of one property, one of the tenants was talked into an assisted purchase way outside of London & the other re-housed more locally. At that time the HA was in the process of doing exactly the same thing with another property in the same road & I’m aware of several other instances of the same tactics being used over a period of years. The properties went to auction but there were some curious coincidences when it came to winners. Maybe they were fortunately aware of information re the condition of the properties other bidders weren’t? Who knows?
    If you understand the conditions of tenancy, you’d know this isn’t actually legit. The other side of the obligations tenants have to treat rentals with respect is an obligation on the landlord to maintain the property in a proper manner. it’s part of what the rent’s being paying for.
    The legal advice I got at the time was that dilapidation was not a justification for requirement to vacate a tenancy & a tenant could compel the landlord to make good the property.
    But how many tenants, confronted by what they would believe to be a watertight fait accompli, would argue?
    For housing association read council. As far as property management are concerned, the two are indistinguishable. If anything, councils can be worse to argue with because they’re more able to set their own conditions.
    So you can see how, if a council wanted to clear an estate, it can create sufficient voids, over a period of time, to cause the whole estate to become an undesirable place to live. Progressively, more tenants will be willing to be rehoused. Under those circumstances, any owner occupied homes , bought under “right to buy” will become equally undesirable & unsaleable & the owners favourable to being bought out. A council could achieve this, even if it controlled a minority of properties on the estate. I wouldn’t fancy the chances of owner-occupiers compelling the council to maintain nearby tenanted property. Even if they could afford to go to court against the council’s unlimited legal opposition, if they lost the council would simply cite budgetary restraints as inability to comply in a useful time-frame

  21. @ b(n)is
    Yes, that is possible but not to the extent that Barnet Council could completely empty an estate of 100% of council tenants since control of the council last changed hands in 2002. Therefore Dave’s inference that this is a plot by Tory Councillors to steal from the poor ex-council tenants is invalid. What you need to achieve this is deeply corrupt housing officials.

  22. John77>

    I think you rather misunderstood me. I was talking about the council stealing from landlords, owners, whoever. Because it’s actually scandalously corrupt. It really isn’t council dependent, I’ve seen it done by various different councils when I was doing property management stuff.

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