Sunday, 18 March 2012

Dovecots For All!

I still can’t work out if Grant Shapps is a genius or a deluded buffoon, because he says really stupid things but people believe him. He must be really clever, right?

By which score, that new housing scheme of his is brilliant. It’s about guaranteeing mortgages for first time buyers who invest in (never buy to live in, never say that) a newbuild property.

But there’sa problem: the money will go to Dovecots. Dovecots are what I came to call urban new build flats, usually one (ridiculously small and Spartan) or two bedrooms, always with one en-suite bathroom no place for storage, loud cheap washing machines placed in what is the lounge, no privacy, no sound insulation, poor internal workmanship and fittings.

Let’s also remember what caused residents the most phenomenal problems, that ubiquitous communal post room where all letters were so easily intercepted causing missing payments, lost credit and ID theft. I have seen these places sell at first instance for £180k, then appear at auction for £70k - every such ‘bargain’ a heartache of repossession and eviction.

I’ve written before about landbanks, where developers hoard empty plots wondering what they intend for them when they realised that one to two bedroom euroboxes were no longer selling. Older houses are far from perfect, and there is a lack of supply. Conversions must be sensitive, and do not count as new. And so it seems that the government is subsidising dovecots and euroboxes. Twat flats for all.

Now keep in mind that many Housing Associations and councils have already ruled out buying up empty dovecots to provide much needed social housing. Here’s the problem. This is about subsidising developers and the building firms. It is not about providing safe, permanent well-regulated, well managed housing for newcomers.

What people need is a strong private rental sector, with affordable rents by which I mean under a quarter of income, as it used to be so usefully and brilliantly, so that all of what we earn (and seem required by the laws of economics to spend and ‘revivify’ the economy) is not devoured by housing costs. We need to know that Assured (accursed) short-term tenancies (travesties) would no longer be used to evict tenants on the whimsical say-so of capricious landlords angry that their surly mortgage paying surfs dared ask for vital repairs.

We need well-built houses and flats which suits our needs, with regard to storage, space, location, sound-proofing, energy efficiency, price and quality. We need protection from eviction, and then we might stay long-term in the property, which is better for everyone.

What we do not need is unmanageable debt owed on a rickety, jerry-built dovecot, which can be slowly and inadvertently dismantled by disgruntled residents like kids who pull at a thread on an old jumper.

We need proper homes, not corrugated cardboard monstrosities we will be unable to sell on. That is a not a first foot on a property ladder: it is paying money directly to developers. They don’t need it, but we do need a good home.

I lived in a newbuild: it’s what I wrote about at first. Sometimes, I forget how bad it was in Dovecot Towers.


RenterGirl said...

Sorry, but blogger won't let make my links 'active' or enabled. Sorry. Cut and paste it is...

MattW said...

Some more 'Dovecots' are going up close to where I live. A 2 bedroomed flat in the space of what really should be an adequate sized 1 bedroomed flat.

Last week I heard the Chief Executive of one of the main developers in an interview, obviously delighted about the 'Newbuy' government scheme, say that 'renting is more expensive than buying'. No it isn't!

This new scheme is encouraging more people to take on large loans on already overpriced assets. Do we really need new houses built for sale? Surely its affordable rented housing that is required?

RenterGirl said...

Exactly: affordable rented housing with excellent safeguards and terms that encouragee long term renting.

David Llewellyn-Smith said...

To MattW...

I couldn't agree more. It's not as if homes aren't overpriced as it is, and this would just make things worse.

Great blog Renter Girl by the way!