Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Taken For A Park And Ride

When I still lived in Dovecot Towers, a well-dressed, nervy gentleman lurking by the main door startled me by saying:
“You have something I want!”
I told him to go away with extreme prejudice.
“But I’m desperate!” he pleaded. “I’ll pay you!”
I escaped.
“Wait! Come back – I’ll give you money!” he shouted. “I need to sublet your parking space!”

Lowly tenants haven’t a hope in hell of obtaining residential parking spaces, so speculative notes pushed under the door, offering to organise parking applications so we can rent them out, are pointless. I don’t own a car. I hate driving, try to be environmentally sensitive, and as for parking nearby, I might just as well drill into my own stomach and dig out an abscess, as city centre parking will give me an ulcer regardless.

Parking wars cause night-terrors and punch-ups. In converted flats, when a building initially designed for one, solitary, Victorian carriage (horseless or otherwise) is transformed with space defying magic into five flats (an attic, a basement, and three storeys) then as many as ten car owners compete to shoehorn their runabout outside, leading to all-in, freestyle, automotive tag-team sardines between the yellow lines.

Buy-to-let newbuilds have unimaginably complex land ownership rights and deciding who is responsible for what is torture. In Dovecot Towers, the car park was owned by a different company to the building’s freeholder. Individual owners rented parking spaces, while non-resident outsiders have bought the freehold on a spot (boy, were they ever smug.)

Drivers flaunted their cars, proudly hoovering and washing windows (which they’d never do at home) while playing loud music, which is their way of saying ‘I am a real man. I own a car. And, yes, it’s a Smart Car, but laydeez love it. You don’t have one. And I do!’

We needed crowd control to marshal the armies of traffic wardens. If you ever thought, even while abroad, of parking briefly on the street, they swooped, bagging doctors on emergency call-out (although I hope they get extra points for catching fake disabled parking badges.) Contractors tried to include the ticket in the bill they gave me, despite having been warned to arrange access before starting work. There was little temporary space for them or guests to park.

Inside Nice Heights, there are two floors of car space in the basement, leased to outside businesses (as usual, tenants are last in the queue.) Outside Nice Heights, side-streets are a tangle of meters and time restrictions. City dwellers live in a transition zone, where the attainable dream of a car-free society is at odds with the primal urge to own even a modest, non gas-guzzling personal transporter.

The real luxury of living and working in the city is that I don’t need a car. There are innovative schemes for shared ownership and vehicle leasing. Public transport, supermarket delivery and taxis tide you over for the difference. I’ve even seen rickshaws for hire. Cars are a problem I avoid by walking. Others, by roller-blading.


la glitz said...

Wow. I can't believe tenants are last in the queue for parking. I mean, I can, considering what scum we are treated as, but still.

Here's a thought. Are you outraged that MPs have been buying houses on expenses, and then profiting on the rising market? Instead of playing the property market at our expense, should they not be forced to rent flats in London and experience at firsthand how landlords treat tenants? Of all of the crap to come out of the expenses scandal, this is what has annoyed me most - that expenses are used to protect MPs from having to become peasant rental scum like us. Because, as we all know, renters are the dregs of society, and what self respecting MP could hold up their head in parliament with a lease?

RenterGirl said...

You're right, but I'd go further. I'd force MP's to live within the constraints of Local Housing Allowance (where housing benefit is set at fixed on a local basis, and is always ridiculousy low.) I'd force them to share to save money -like many low paid/young claimants uner 25. The Rent office site setting out the LHA level for Westminster seems to have crashed. I am not alone in this thought.

And I'd make them move every six months to save money (kind of like they did already, but without the luxury of flipping for personal gain, and they'd have to organise theirown move, and all the accompanying palaver.)

DK said...

It's not developers fault a lot of the time. Councils round my way (london) often only give planning permissions on the proviso that parking is not provided. They even state that residents have no rights to residents parking on the streets... All part of a policy of forcing people out of cars...

To be fair it works, at least in London.. i 've just scrapped my car after it failed its MOT. And car-sharing companies like ZipCar or Streetcar work a treat....

RenterGirl said...

I agree. But I'm glad that people will be encouraged not to own and run cars. But it could be fairer eg letting tenants rent spaces rather than businesses. Or placing Electric Car Chargers close or in newbuilds. And placing those hire companies in bays close to newbuild city developments? Cars are not necessary if you live and work in a city.

Shoe said...

I found this hilarious. I live in a Victorian conversion in Ireland where not only the place I live but half the street has been somehow magically converted into not 5, but 10 and more individual flats, either so expensive (since indivudal units are tough to find) that mainly couples live in them, or so shanty-townesque that only rent subsidized ex-asylum seekers used to slum conditions will live there (who seem to be a group especially obsessed with car ownership). The terrace has the additional dubious honour of being one of only about 3 streets in the 4 square miles around us that isn't "parking controlled" instead policed by an army of the few remaining smug owner occupiers (the bravest of gentrificationists do try) eith stolen traffc cones, and a fresh army of local traffic wardens who've come to police the double yellow lines around the terrace which are inevitably filled by visitors to the asylum seekers (who all seem to arrive to show off their 5 €100 euro bangers - bless!!). The sad thing is that clamping and parking tickets are now rife, and since most tenants need 10 pieces of documentation and a legally registered tenancy (which there is no law to prevent landlords from charging directly to the tenants for) I think I'm probably the only person on the terrace with a parking permit. Sadly, Cork has 3rd world levels of public transport at 1st world prices, so a car is an unavoidable necessity for most people. But this article did make me life.

RenterGirl said...

What a nightmare! But that's outside of the actual centre? Because the walking thing works for me. Amittedly, I now have stoop from carrying shopping, but the planet benefits. So that's okay then. thanks for reading.