Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Life On The Ocean Wave With Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps thinks people could live in boats.

Grant Shapps thinks people should live in boats.

Yes I know I said it twice, but seriously, I might even type those words again in the vain hope that I will believe that he actually said that (he did) or that it makes sense (nope – it still doesn’t.)

A few years back, I interviewed the great man himself. This was of course some time before he could sit in his lair with a glint in his eye, dreaming up new and increasingly bizarre solutions to the housing crisis.

Crisis? What crisis? Yes, we have a housing crisis: housing benefit cuts are propelling large numbers of tenants towards fewer properties (well ones they can afford if they are now, or likely to be claiming benefits.) I’ve said before that surely that would be best achieved by revitalising rent officers, allowing them to set tight rent controls, rather than cutting benefits and hoping landlords will drop their prices (why would they where this is a shortage of properties?)

We need to build large affordable homes on city centre sites, under the Parker Morris standards. We can build them in skyscrapers or in well-designed low rise developments, not the Dovecots I have written about in the past. I doubt that developers are queuing up to build boats. (It just sounds sillier every time I type it.)

This will be a nightmare. Now, Grant when we met, was very keen to emphasise his admirable campaign for realistic rough sleeping figures, to the extent that he spent a well-publicised night sleeping outdoors one chilly Christmas eve. But apart from this, nobody in government seems to have grasped the reality of housing, such as the supply and demand part, and we are still in a febrile buy-to-let scenario, where owners still believe they are entitled to ramp up rents and luxuriate in money. Didn’t that used to be called profiteering?

But back to the boats. It’s already hard enough to get a mooring for a residential barge, I am led to believe. Does he mean we should all go on a cruise? As jolly as that would be, it’s hardly practical: the obesity crisis would be worsened by those notorious 24-hour buffets, and what if you are sea-sick?

Does he mean we should join the navy? Defence cuts will see to that. Rowing boats? Yachts? Well, I’ve fancied sailing in yling-yling just because I like the sound of the word. Or does he mean that blameless citizens, tax payers and claimants alike should be herded off into prison ships and forced to wade ashore every morning, that’s if they aren’t intercepted by pirates. Every child’s dream, but not very nice, even if we are piped ashore by lovely sailors.

Boats are not the answer. Not for nothing are boats big enough to live in long-term usually the preserve of the stupidly rich.

Grant, Grant Shapps – Grant Shapps are you out there? Earth to Grant Shapps!!! You are deluded, you are causing harm and your latest utterance is an absolute load of coracles.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed. He has gone a bit bonkers.

RenterGirl said...

A bit? There's a thick fog in front of his brain, and all he cares about is no regulation of anything. And then we get to the ideas he has, like that one. Boats. Boats? Honestly.

Vionolo said...

But on the upside - this knee-jerk reaction would surely result in actual thought-out action after one of the leaky tenaments sinks. What's that you say - a hole in the floor? Water coming in fast, you say? Cannot rent out my multiple occupancy dwelling anymore as it's at the bottom of the *insert name of your local river here*? Oh.

RenterGirl said...

You might have a point, Vionolo. But just imagine how congested out waterways will be. The canals are currently used as much for the modern leisure trade as at the height of the canals use for industry. The sea is the only option. Or (I'm a GENIUS!!!) outer space!

Vionolo said...

HA! Given the expense associated with the outer space option, it would definitely free up space in London where the ultra rich currently reside...

Jonathan said...

It's a bizzare idea. I don't know much about boats, but some fiends who have a small boat always complain how ruinously expensive everything is: repairs, mooring, electricity and other services.

The comment about profiteering: I don't think it's particularly true. Once you allow for both interest payment and inflation, returns of property rental are not that high in most areas. However, if the shortage of decent affordable (either bought or rented) housing continues, we are going to see another rapid escalation in both sale prices and a matching rise in rests, as the owners still need to make a return on investment.

RenterGirl said...

If interest rates go up...we are screwed. Tenants as well. I won't be surprised if some condem apparatchik suggests storing the homeless in offshore containers.

Geoff said...

We don't need more space or more houses, well maybe a few more houses but nowhere near as many as we think. There were an estimated 700,000 empty houses in England in 2010 (source: http://www.emptyhomes.com), that's up a hundred thousand or so on the previous year. So let's get this clear, this isn't a housing crisis, it's a HOMING crisis. The housing (for the most part) is already there and just need to be seized and utilized. It really bugs me when I see artificially inflated rents being raised even more by Landlords that own fifteen properties on the basis that there is a shortage of housing.

RenterGirl said...

You're right Geoff - and my link to Empty Homes has been up for years! I agree. But building homes has more to do with 'job-creation' boosting the construction industry and the urge for home ownership than homes.

Harry said...

Used cargo containers can be converted into high quality accommodation. This is a cheap, speedy, and practical solution to the lack of affordable accommodation. The problem with housing is not the lack of practical ideas for affordable housing, rather the property market is rigged to ensure that there are too many people and not enough houses to go around.

Leviathan said...

Having attended some of his speeches when he was in opposition he is indeed a strange little man and one can't under-estimate the depth of his free market fanaticism.

But the mention of boats did inspire me to re-watch the Lonely Island classic which cheered me up enormously:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU

Leviathan said...

Having attended some of his speeches when he was in opposition he is indeed a strange little man and one can't under-estimate the depth of his free market fanaticism.

But the mention of boats did inspire me to re-watch the Lonely Island classic which cheered me up enormously:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU