It’s out there. Labour plan to build lot’s and lot’s of affordable homes. Loads of ‘em. Many, many affordable homes. Plenty of them. Lot’s. This really is great news – we need these ‘affordable’ homes. The more the merrier.
But here’s my problem with those vast expanses, those wide yawning vistas of so-called affordable homes. They will not be affordable. What’s worse, they’ll be substandard. They will be smaller, and shoddier, and not even that cheap.
I used to live on an estate with both private homes to buy and own, and some council houses – or social homes, as they are now styled, were located on adjacent streets. The private barret-boxes were bad enough – thin walls, three bedroom in theory but one teensy box room in reality. They were built with as little space as possible, with no cupboards and low ceilings.
I’ve never understood (and never will understand) just why it is that people in need of social houses should subsequently be deemed to need less of everything, because this is just what happened on my old estate. Why should it be that council houses, or social homes as they are now designated, must be far worse than second best. It’s true that poverty slows human growth, but the impoverished are not tiny pixies.
It didn’t use to be this way. Council houses in the post WW1 were sometimes lovely, with thick walls and high standards. Even those brutalist tower blocks which have evaded demolition have their fans. I’ve lived or stayed in some excellent examples, so I know that they can be fantastic machines to live in.
But still, why does cheaper homes for poorer people need to be so shoddy? The lower your income, the less money available for heating bills, so you’d think that insulation and sturdy walls would be universally considered to be vital. But nooooo.
Let’s remember – this also applies to ‘affordable homes’ bought by owner occupiers. But here’s the bit where the sneering of the people who design and plan houses, that is – those who permit us to live in a house. They actually waved through recent requests by some overseas investors who were building homes in London. The idea was that this development was to feature some top notch, high-end, posh homes, but also – for us povs and plebs, some affordable places. The upshot is that the homes will no be just for the posh, rich and litigious. Oh – and their will be a separate entrance for ‘affordable’ home occupiers, because well, the sight of the great unwashed will disturb and menace the others.
So when new homes are build to rent, or ‘affordable’ or intended for that first, tenuous, precarious step on the ownership ladder, and when (as in my previous post) some homes are let by 'forced' or accidental rentiers, why, why, why are these homes build for some secret mythical norm fit for people who don’t need space, spare rooms. It’s yet another example of tenants being viewed as subhuman, or lesser than owners.
A separate entrance. Really – a separate entrance. That happened.