Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Luxury Lifestyle?

Parts of the media have finally acknowledged the existence of urban living, even if they have some strange ideas about the type of people who live in the city. Most commentators are ignorant of the fact that urbanites are just average citizens, frequently surviving in lowly paid occupations and bog standard entry level work, making do on short term contracts, or even struggling on minimum wage or benefits. We are not millionaires.

Television stories about city centre apartments (never say flats) use words like swanky, swish and flash, which is far from true. Outsiders drive past these developments and imagine that we are all yuppies living in luxurious marble edifices, and that we are rich.

If you are currently house-hunting, then the most available and accessible option - especially in the current climate - is to live in a building like Dovecot Towers. You might be in a hurry, or perhaps you have a genuine need to live in the city – to save fare money or work anti-social hours, for example. But still everybody assumes we are posh. In a former flat I was serenaded by drunken revellers at closing time singing ‘…wake up yuppies!’ Except, this was a Housing Association scheme and residents were anything but wealthy; in fact most were downright poor. Even so, passers by firmly believed we earned a fortune and lived in blissful conditions, which they were determined to ruin.

City newbuilds have featured elsewhere, highlighting another problem I rant about here: the lack of amenities like schools, GP’s, and shops where you can find basics like fuse wire. Misleadingly, the only flats shown were luxury penthouses and I’d like to point out one last time that we do not live in lofty palaces festooned with sumptuous silk hangings, with all three bedrooms en suite, next to techno kitchens groaning with gadgets, every room bedecked with plush designer fittings and a champagne fountain in that enviably spacious lounge. For the record, I don’t have a butler.

Annoyances about preconceptions apart, life is increasingly unsettling for those landlords who bought their property speculatively off plan. They own and rent out a property they may never have seen and often live some distance away: not just in another town but in another country.

Owners are occasionally spotted wandering about, visibly disheartened - even utterly appalled - as they test the flimsy structure, kick away the rubbish and take in the enormity of just how skilfully they’ve been fleeced. They were charmed into believing they had bought a bijou, high-ends lifestyle accessory. They are keen to join our party, and may even have considered moving in themselves for a carefree retirement after years of coining it in and spending money on diamonds, or their children’s private education.

In reality, they’ll be lucky to pay the mortgage, having bought into a stack of frail garden sheds, where the phrase ‘urban living’ is being replaced by the more negative ‘inner city life’. When it comes to newbuilds, both landlords and tenants can forget as fanciful any idea of a luxury lifestyle. Our home is too rickety for that.


Anonymous said...

Try "UK Slave Boxes".

So much more descriptive.

RenterGirl said...

It's a good point, elegantly and succinctly made.