Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where To Stick Your Bike

This blog has moved from writing about my previous, falling down home within the horror-scape of Dovecot Towers, on to the design of housing, to the nature of being a tenant, or rather the nightmare of renting, and dealing with letting agents, who are still the monstrous enemy at the door.

As for design, I’ve long thought that all homes should feature not just storage for, you know accumulated ‘stuff,’ but also sufficient space to keep a bike. Or bikes. Several bikes. Because, they’re cheap and green and cycling is the way forward.

Newbuilds should be mindful of this increased bike need. They’re often built just slightly too far away from city centres, and could even feature their own, special bike hire hub. Bike storage could be built into the entrance halls – or in basements, next to car parks.

Cycling keeps you fit and healthy – plus, it’s cheap. The only problem is finding somewhere to stash them, or to mend punctured tyres and paint them. It’s worse when visitors bring their own cycles when visiting you – especially if you live somewhere that’s not safe, and you must remove the wheels and lamps, etc.

*sighs, then weeps*

Oh, who I am kidding? I don’t care about bikes right now – there are so many more important problems and issues.

It shouldn’t be that social security cuts are affecting the housing situation as much as they are. But they are. And they’re hurting everybody. The benefit cap, then Local Housing Allowance which severely restricts where claimants can live – that is, right at the bottom of where it’s safe to live. By this I don’t mean ‘affordable’ – there’s no such thing.

I mean where it’s scary. Where CCTV points to the problem side of the road, where there are no bijou cafes, just tanning salons, ‘Turf accountants’ and pound shops. Where insurance costs are restrictive because crime is high. Nor do I mean edgy, trendy or arty.

Then there’s the whole of renting, of interminable references, credit checks, ‘affordability’ checks, one-off cleaning fees, fees to collect fees, all charged to both tenants and owners.

The previous post discusses the idea of intentional, vindictive inherent insecurity – of never really knowing how long you can stay.

The privately rented house is rarely a home. Why bother to unpack, when you can’t paint without knowing you must repaint possibly in six months time, and why buy nice household items when sooner rather than later they’ll be stored or dropped on the pavement by the kindly friend who’s helping you to move house again, for the umpteenth time in five years. If in London, you will be dreading rent rises, having no pension, keeping enough to one side, not for a deposit to buy a home but for the next deposit on renting one.

Yes, design matters. Storage is essential and bicycles are fantastic. Bike sheds outside, with safe secure areas to mend and keep them. But you know what, even with the mooted increase in private buy-to-let developments where these issues could be properly considered and catered for, right now there are so many other priorities.


Rich Tee said...

I've just been experiencing the test of strength and agility that is maneuvering a dirty bike around a magnolia painted rented flat to clean and repair it. As I've said in these comments before, I've actually repainted a couple of areas in magnolia kitchen paint which is washable, so I can wipe the marks off easily.

As for the "no pension", thanks to new government legislation, we will all be forced to pay give up some of our earnings (5 per cent by 2018 in my case) to pay into a fund that will be raided by bankers in the form of charges, so paying the rent is about to become even more difficult.

RenterGirl said...

Yep. Especially when the dreaded beige carpet is fitted in the hall. And yes, there are many reasons why paying the rent is about to become more difficult - without stringent controls.

Hey, Kate said...

Followed your link from the Graun (thanks!)and stopped long to read your great blog.

To tie the basic human need for shelter, and its costs, to a nation's economy is disastrous and will lead to poverty not seen since Victorian times. I would hope that the recent UN report on available affordable and decent housing in the UK will be met with responsible action from government, but as the recommendations are not enforceable, and the plight of hunger, homelessness, and increasing poverty is routinely met with sneering derision or simple dismissal from those On High, hope is really an empty aspiration. Action is the remedy for apathy.

This issue of letting agencies charging spurious fees and fees for fees, etc, is particularly troubling. It is a modern form of financial opportunism; former Rent Agents with new titles and slick offices.

Tenant Associations and tenant-owned cooperative buildings may be a better way forward, and would certainly level the disparity in housing options and security for a vast number of tenants who are being disenfranchised from access to secure, decent homes. How interesting would it be to think of the possibility that landlords and letting agencies *had* to go through Tenant Associations to acquire tenants because the majority of tenants belonged to one?

Magnolia and beige carpets, yes indeed; along with damp walls, no insulation or soundproofing, inadequate electric panel heaters, and no heat in 2/3 of my flat. Of course there's no place for a bike -that would be ostentatious for my flat with its one-person-at-a-time-kitchen.

Regards new builds, it will be interesting to learn more of what exactly Cameron's legacy of slimming building standards down to ten will lead to. Our windows are already so tiny a cat could not escape if they were left wide open, not particularly reassuring when living on the third floor with no fire escape.

Thank you for what you are doing, but more so for not putting any polish on the truth of the housing situation here in the UK.

RenterGirl said...

Thank you so much. The first few years of this blog I wrote about Dovecot Towers - the horrible, decaying newbuild I lived in, with all it's design horrors.

Anonymous said...

get on your bike and don't live in London, then ! i am 27 and an OUTRIGHT OWNER-OCCUPIER thanks to leaving the UK and selecting a cheaper country and now i'm buying a second flat under construction BY TO RENT . it seems you are guilty of making very foolish life choices.

RenterGirl said...

Laydeez and gennellmen! The world's biggest arsehole! Behold!