It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

My home is someone else’s castle

Posted by chrisrick13 on February 27, 2018

It is obvious: there is no housing crisis

I stumbled across a homeless charity’s website. Figures are difficult to get but it estimated about 5,000 people are ‘living rough’ in the UK. That means sleeping out in the open at night. It is -8º C as I write this so they have my sympathy today.  I had guessed that it would be 100,000 so I was out by a long way.

Tonight then, everyone bar 5,000 of us is sleeping under a roof.

There might well be a housing crisis but it is certainly not a shortage that is the problem. A lot of those people are not sleeping where they want to. In fact I am not either. I can think of many places I would rather be sleeping tonight than here! I can think of a lot of people who would rather be sleeping here than where they are!

So the housing crisis is one of not enough of the right types of roof not a shortage.

Building lots more houses won’t fix the problem, if indeed it is one. If as a nation we were to build a lot of roofs of the right type that people want to sleep under and can afford to, then by definition they are moving out from under one roof to another roof somewhere else. The obvious conclusion is that house prices will start to go down in the types of house where the ‘pressure’ is eased by the new roofs. Alas, the value of those new roofs will also go down.

The economy and, perhaps more importantly, the banks are being kept viable by an inflated house market. The last thing the government wants is a reduction in the value of housing (roofs). Yet it has to promise lots of new houses. Still as long as it is not enough, and it never is, then all will be well.

Perhaps building a few shelters for the 5,000 on the streets would be a cheap, effective and humane thing to do. Just go out at night, scoop people up and offer them a bed. You could use some of the unemployed to do it. Obviously need detail to handle abuse of the system but doable for a very small cost compared to the benefit.

I was then moved to look at people who have their own roofs. Or rather those that shared ownership of a roof with their bank. To give it some perspective I was looking today at a letter from the Halifax telling me that the interest rate on my mortgage, in the late 70s, was 9.75%.

It is difficult to get consensus numbers but I was looking at numbers of households with negative equity. Then I looked at numbers in arrears on their mortgages. Then I looked at numbers of JAMs (just about managing). These sets certainly overlap. My estimate is that it is over 1 million households.

At some point in the UK inflation will take off or there will be a run on the pound. We can just rename the country ‘Zimbabwe’ (its president is between jobs at the moment) and leave interest rates where they are or we can put interests rates up and a million people on the streets.

It’s coming to a street near you!  After the Italian election we might get trial run to see what happens before it happens to us.

It is obvious: there is no housing crisis there is a roof type crisis.

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5 Responses to “My home is someone else’s castle”

  1. Grumpy Git said

    Hum, a couple of comments.

    First a friend from school is the leader of LibDems on a local council. They had an initaive to get people off the streets for Christmas and while some were gateful for the offer there were a lot that say Bog-Off and mind your own business! Moral-1: Don’t assume your own preferences apply to everyone.

    I live in an area of cheap housing (no not an inner city that would be expensive hoses); I would like to live near my kids, but the costs would be prohibitive. Moral-2: The location is as important as the roof-type.

    You don’t mention it but isn’t the number of families with “Second Homes” on the increase? Is this a good thing or should we be putting a penalty on these to ‘encourage’ people to get these back into the available housing stock?

  2. Lord Warden said

    Rough sleeping is the tip of a big iceberg. If you want to try it, there are sponsored events where middle-class people like us can sleep ‘rough’ for one night to raise money for charity. But are provided with a comfortable sleeping bag and a completely safe location. And back home for a shower in the morning.

    The live expectancy, in 2018, for a rough sleeper in the UK, is 45 years.

    Can you even begin to imagine what it’s like to live rough for real? I can’t.

    In addition to those 5,000, Crisis suggest another 50,000 casual homeless, sofa-surfing etc.

    And another 75,000 households in shelters or temporary accomodation. That includes 120,000 children and must include at least 1 adult per household, so call that another 200,000 souls.

    But that’s fine as they all have a roof over their head?

    You’re correct in that building more houses is never going to help people with not enough money to buy or rent them.

    Mixing negative equity with homelessness is, sorry, grossly insensitive.

  3. L said

    P.S. please don’t conflate beggars/buskers (some of whom may have chosen that lifestyle), with the homeless, almost all of whom have NOT chosen it.

    It’s truly depressing that people, such as ‘Grumpy Git’, seem to believe that the homeless, and even rough sleepers, are a happy bunch who choose to live that way and actively reject help.

    If you want to sit in your warm, safe home, with effectively unlimited food available, and labour under that delusion, there is nothing I can say that will change that. But it is a delusion.

    Just be sure to count your blessings and hope that some terrible misfortune doesn’t happen to you.

    • I have slept rough. No sleeping bag. In a ditch that was out the wind and out of view of others. Worked well until it started raining.

      When I wrote the blog I had in my mind the TED talk I heard from the Mayor of Albuquerque. I have not checked where it is now but in short:

      On his way to work he passed a man on the street begging. His sign said: Give me a job.

      He went to his office and spent time cutting through lots of red tape. Then soon had 3 buses touring the streets every day. They stopped at anyone begging or sleeping on the street and made the offer of a day of work for $50, a decent meal at mid-day and a return to this spot or anywhere else in the city including refuges where they could sleep the night. The result was (is?) that there is nobody sleeping out at night in the city, nobody begging on the streets, and no litter. These people have cleared prodigious amounts of litter. There are billboards all around the city listing the weights of cleared rubbish. A Tumbleweed by definition weighs nothing yet they have cleared many, many tons of them. They have saved the city many times their costs. Not desultorily pushing a cart around the streets but working in teams on major projects.

      Many times the people on the bus were told to push off when they made their offer: which is what they did – with a smile. Next day same deal again. Nobody was ever excluded from the offer.

      I think that no matter how much you are determined to live rough when most of the people you used to do it with have gone then perhaps you start to wonder what is going on? Seems it worked though.

      My point was that to solve one or even some aspects of the ‘housing crisis’ does not take much but it takes the right ‘not much’. Part of it is that you do have to have some roofs for them to sleep under when they choose to. Not many though. Also it is not a housing problem!

      But the rough sleeping was just a small part of the article. I know well about sofa-surfers, children in B&B and the hardship that many people live under. The ‘housing crisis’ or ‘housing shortage’ I read of…isn’t. It is as I said, a roof type problem.

      Unashamedly I mention mortgage arrears, negative equity, JAMS. They are suffering just as much as people in B&B for example, just in different ways. Does not matter how they arrived at that state.

      All these people are failed in different ways by the state, banks, even the society they live in. Much of that is led by the poor reporting of what is going on and THAT is what my article was about.

      • LW said

        I heard about that, but not the interview, so thanks. https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_j_berry_a_practical_way_to_help_the_homeless_find_work_and_safety

        Also, on similar lines, although I can’t find a link, a city in Canada that offered the homeless modest, but their own, accomodation as well as a work opportunity. Again, stunning success with close to zero homeless on their streets and many, many lives turned around (and now paying taxes).

        Interesting article in current The Economist on rough sleeping. The most common cause for ages had been ‘change in personal circumstances’ (typically family breakdown). That’s now changed and being turfed out of private accomodation is the leading cause (up from 11% in 2010 to 40% now), resulting from inability to pay rent (rents up, housing benefit down).

        Many (not all) in negative equity will have knowingly overstretched hoping to make a profit on house price inflation, but got bitten on the bum. That’s sad but that’s life. A bit like Interest-only mortgage holders who are suddenly shocked and horrified and whining on Radio 4 that they have to pay back the capital at the end of the term.

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