How Portsmouth City Council could repurpose empty buildings like the Sainsbury in Commercial Road

We need affordable housing. A lot of it. Particularly young people need this. Young people who don’t have families yet. Certainly now that the pandemic has cut short a lot of opportunities. But there are people of all ages who have no families and who need this. An ideal solution would enable people to stop building up debt and pay them off instead. See it as a form of universal income.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/03/california-universal-basic-income-study


Stopping people from being forced to pay a huge chunk of their income towards rent effectively provides them with more income, after all.

The usual approach is to spend a lot of money on construction, leading to a need to charge relatively high rents that keep people trapped. What if you took a controversial but innovative approach and offer small homes that may look like pigeon holes or rabbit cages but that have everything that people need – including internet access – and allow them to keep their expenses down dramatically?

I got that idea from a video that I watched a few years ago about developments in Japan.

What people need is a warm but private and safe place to sleep and relax, shower, eat and even work, for some.

Tiny high-quality compartments that give people everything they need and allow them to save on rent big time, pay off debts and build up savings are more than only “rabbit cages for the poor” or “pigeon holes for the young”. Provided you do it well and don’t create a ghetto. Rents should be 100 to 200 pounds. The place should have free wifi, could have a few shops – a supermarket and a take-away – and a laundramat.

It should have some rules, such as “you are allowed to consume alcohol and you are allowed to misbehave a little while drunk but if you do it more than five times in a year, you’re out”.

(Bans say “we think you’re irresponsible and so we take your personal responsibility away from you”. Bans spell contempt and ghetto.)

The pandemic would complicate this a little bit, right now, and still require a lot of discipline right now. But the pandemic will pass and it will take a little time to create these living spaces.

I’ll see if I can find the video that I watched to give you some idea what I am talking about. (But I no longer have my older watch history.) It was a documentary about maybe a gamer, not about the housing but about the way this person was living his life. And maybe it was not Japan. I am not talking the usual (cage homes etc). I am talking a collection of modern, purpose-built living spaces in one building. It’s not a solution for the long term, of course, but it is a solution that could particularly give young people’s finances a boost and allow them to focus on things that matter. No more worries about how to pay for a new washing machine for example.

Possibly manga kissas?

I found a video about a software engineer living in a manga kissa in Tokyo because he does not want travel “home” for hours. Has been living in manga kissas for five years. This is not literally what I have in mind for places like Portsmouth, but you can build on this idea. I’ll see what else I can find. The video I refer to above was older.

It must be this one because it is five years old and I had already liked it. Not a gamer but a webmaster.

Manboos.

Are we going to watch it happen? Homes aren’t Bitcoins.

So the UK has this impending explosion of homelessness building up, apparently.

Are we all just going to stand by and watch it happen?

Letting the homelessness tsunami happen will increase health disparities even further. Pandemic-related job losses have impacted the socioeconomic disadvantaged (women, minorities) disproportionately.

What solutions can we come up with to prevent this Covid-related flood of homelessness?

At the same time, we have so many homes and large buildings standing empty and not accruing any active income from being used. They’re mere investments, waiting for time to pass and their value to increase so that they can be sold off.

As if they were Bitcoins instead of homes.

We could start making an inventory of these empty homes and prepare them for evicted people to move into. For purely practical reasons, that might work. It is a lot of work to remove people from homes that were standing empty anyway. The same practical reasons may also mean that the flood of evictions will soon be simply too massive for courts and bailiffs to handle. These two practical factors might work very well in tandem, eventually.

But the latter is not the case yet at the start of this wave of homelessness.

I’ve found over the years that it is useless to contact any existing organisations in the UK. They all have their own agendas and they rigidly stick to those agendas, has been my experience.

So if something like the above needs to be done, it will require setting up new groups of people who will DO THIS.

Homeless? You may soon no longer be breaking the law

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, has told the House of Commons that the Vagrancy Act should be “consigned to history”.

Oh, that’s good of him, isn’t it?

At the same time, the UK government has quietly eroded the corona virus eviction protection – which was much less extensive than the one in the US to begin with – Lime Legal informed me this morning. It pointed me towards this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/feb/28/eviction-orders-being-issued-despite-uk-government-covid-pledge

UK inequality is like a diamond

So hard that nothing shatters it…

This morning, I filmed this short video below. A few hours later, I spotted this JAW-DROPPING BIT OF BRITISH NEWS in The Guardian. Turns out that there is no pandemic, according to close to 50% of Brits. Because if you lost your job because of the pandemic, that’s on you. Nothing to do with the pandemic, these people say.

“Despite the exceptional circumstances [of Covid], Britons are more likely to think that job losses caused by the crisis are the result of personal failure than chance.”

They also say this:

One in eight Britons think lower earnings and higher unemployment among black people are due to a lack of motivation or willpower. Because most black people have “less in-born ability to learn”.

‘scuse me???!

Britain has something that no other country has. The class system. It makes people believe that they have few options and it makes them overlook opportunities. (This class system also impacted India because it used to be under British rule and it meant that the associated cronyism became applied in India.)

It makes others believe this too. It makes others believe that lower-class people and others who have little income are inherently limited in terms of skills and abilities. But not because of their poverty. These people see the poverty of others as a result of who those others are. They don’t see their poverty as a result of lack of income as a result of massive inequality which also brings low wages with it.

I too became heavily influenced by British class thinking after I moved to the UK so I know very well how heavy its burden can be. But I am still much more aware of it than Brits.

In 2019, there was a day for which I had train tickets to go to London but someone told me that it would be better not to go to London that day. I listened to that advice and did not apply my critical thinking skills.

The person who gave me that advice – I won’t name any names – is the kind of person many people turn to for advice. He is heavily influenced by class ideas and at the same time, has no idea of the extent to which poverty alone can hold people back, because of the many practical implications that poverty has. And he sees these kind of people are powerless, not as people who  seem very different people when empowered. Appearances can be so deceiving.

If I had gone to London that day, I might have returned with a boatload of paid work and if not, then I would not have wasted my train tickets – I did now – and have had a good day out. And in times of stress, such little bits of leisure are very important, particularly if they take you out of your regular environment and habits.

That I did not go to London, that’s fully on me, however.

 

In the video, I mention the CAB. I know that there is a lot of variation among the CABs but their main problem seems to be that they, too, operate with a class system mindset. They see powerlessness. Depending on where you are in the UK, there may be better advice options for you locally.

But… please, try to think from true strength as opposed to from weakness and powerlessness. Because thinking from strength will support you and carry you.

And don’t confuse admitting to feelings of insecurity or fear with weakness. See them and embrace them. Don’t fight them. If you don’t fight unpleasant feelings, they will move on. If you fight them, they will cling to you. 

When I was in my twenties, I bought a book that taught me about this stuff, that you shouldn’t focus on how poor you are – if that is your challenge – but more or less pretend that you already are where you want to be.

Stay well. Be prosperous and resourceful. You deserve it.

New appointment with Mr Grant Murphy

Tuesday 16 February 2021 at noon.

 

18:20
Have finally heard back! At 17:30. Remember that the initial appointment was for noon today.

Grant Murphy will not be there on Tuesday.
For the first time, in years, he has now said something about the rubbish. Says that it has been dumped there by us tenants. That statement is in direct contradiction with me having been admonished for having started to take care of the rubbish a few years ago!  
What on earth can you do with a jerk like that?
He now says that he is willing to write to the other tenants about the rubbish and that we should contact the council about it.
But the council already knows about it! Hampshire Fire & Rescue informed them.


I have written back the following:
“Dear Grant,

Your reply is despicable and in direct ignorance of government guidelines.

Enough.”
 
Yes, Grant Murphy had a door repainted a while back, the one door that the public gets to see. That’s worthless cosmetics. We need doors with locks that work. The colour of the door is immaterial.

Am meeting with Grant Murphy tomorrow

At noon.

I will only speak with Mr Murphy, not with any of his serfs.

They refer every decision to him and often speak in vague, puzzling phrases akin to “Grant had a bowel movement this morning”.

 

11 Feb 2021
It’s about this:  Letter to Murphy d.d. 8 Feb 2021

This it not Grant Murphy, but Grant Murphy gives people like him a bad image. It’s my cousin. One of my cousins. And I bet that I  am forcing my cousin to act now without even needing to contact him. (We used to get along very well, as we sort of spoke each other’s language. We used to run through alleyways and hide from the other siblings and cousins.) I am fed up with being shoved aside and jerked around because of the side effects of the English class system and other types of otherisation here in England / Portsmouth. If I am considered not a human being because of all this class shit, then I will have to enlist the support from someone who IS considered a proper human being within these class views. So that is what I am doing. (And that’s probably an understatement.)

Tenants have the right to be safe in their own homes. The doors to buildings need to provide security – not add risk. Etc etc etc etc.

I cannot support myself until the problems with the building that I live in are remedied – and as the landlord and Portsmouth City Council do not want to help with that, even though I’ve been harping on about it for years, I have no choice but to crowdsource every step. It’s ridiculous that I cannot be away for more than 1 or 2 hours if I don’t want the locks to my flat to get picked when I am out.

But other tenants deserve security too.

(I’ve heard another tenant’s flat being accessed in his absence too. Sadly, he didn’t believe me when I told him. I never saw this coming with regard to my own flat either, so I can’t blame him.)  

And we (including me) should have access to our postal mail.

It’s also ridiculous that Hampshire Fire & Rescue and other landlords are supposed to step in to deal with Grant Murphy’s rubbish. 

 

I’ve started a petition. Take a look.

And then sign and forward it, please. Thanks.
I have also just e-mailed it to the CAB, Advice Portsmouth, Shelter, the local MP and a few other parties.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/pay-benefits-to-tenants-not-landlords-1

For visitors from the US: The UK does not have the coronavirus ban on evictions that you guys have. Nope.

When I was evicted back in 2010, at age 50, it was similar weather as now, not that long before Christmas. That eviction would never have happened to me if I’d stayed in Amsterdam. But I didn’t, so that is water under the bridge.

I found out that I still had a £150 car club credit and I used it to rescue my pets from the shelter they had ended up in.

Among other things, I then drove across the country, from Hampshire to Devon. (And back.) That was the first time I had ever driven through snow – let alone thick snow – and the roads went up and down hills. It went well. I didn’t get stuck even once, but I did stall briefly up a long slope somewhere when my wheels slipped a tiny bit. “You can do this”, I said to myself and restarted the car.

Easy does it in those conditions. Allow the wheels to get traction, very gently. Don’t force them. It’s simple physics, isn’t? I passed several cars and a few lorries that had needed to give up or were stuck on that slope. It gave me a real boost at the time. I even had to drive around one, go off the “track” and drive through fresh snow.

It’s not true that people who are evicted or who are on benefits are a useless lesser species. Their circumstances are almost always mostly a side effect of Britain’s excessive inequality.

These photos below, that was me while I was homeless, back then, pretty grey under the hair dye. Yeah, homelessness is quite exhausting. You end up WALKING so much and in all kinds of weather. From office to office to office, finding some closed and having to come back an hour later, finding yourself being shooed away too if you’re not careful. There is nowhere to BE.

So you are often forced to keep walking around even when you have nowhere to go to at that point, nowhere were you need to be. Thankfully, I fit in well enough among the Starbucks crowd and nobody ever even tried to bother me there.

But now, with almost everything closed, there is absolutely nowhere for homeless people to go to.

It really helped to have my kind of background because my confidence confused some people and made them back off if they were about to shoo me away and then they might mutter something about my phone charger not having been PAT tested. It made others identify with me and therefore more willing to help me out while they might have ignored others who they couldn’t identify with.

 

For me personally, it had the advantage of being out of the “claws” of 24/7 hacking interference and being able to compare information on my phone with information on un-compromised computers.

For most other people, however, staying in their homes is best, certainly right now, with the complications of the pandemic.

The OTHER lock problems at my address continue

I can’t get to my postal mail as once again, the lock to the back door of the front building is jammed. I’ve reported this problem to the landlord and his staff repeatedly.

Had not seen any mail for anyone in this building for days, so I decided to go over. “Oh, that’s why, again” I realised when I tried to open the door and couldn’t.

The front door to the front building often cannot be closed when someone leaves through that door. (I often walk by it to see it standing open and when I try to pull it closed, find that I can’t. The lock won’t close.) I’ve also reported this problem to the landlord and his staff repeatedly.

Both issues have existed for at least five years, I estimate.

The problem with the lighting in our building won’t go away either by the landlord merely conveniently looking the other way. I solved it temporarily, with strings of twinkly lights and a timer. The landlord and/or his staff took all of those but because it meant we were literally in the dark again, I put up the remaining string that I still had.

My landlord is a soulless amateur, clearly.

That is what you might think. No, I think he is into deliberate slum creation, buys up and whips up small properties that he essentially lets go to waste – though he is good at pretending to make an effort – because it means that this will make it easier to tear down the buildings in due course – planning permission – and then, after that, he makes his real ROI.

What next?

I have changed the name of my Ltd company and will go forward to address issues like workplace bullying, which can be diversity-related. (There is a lot of otherisation in England. Too much.) And I think that my old business is totally toast by now.

I’ve also made an appointment for an assessment to have a lock fitted. Had tried that before, but did not work out for whatever reason. Have decided to try and crowdfund it: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-me-make-my-home-safe-again

I want to be able to stop having to ruminate about who is doing all these strange things to my life and why. It’s exhausting. And that’s an understatement. But positive-thinking it all away does not help one iota either. Securing my door should start to help. A lot. 

A letter that I expect to arrive today

Update Thursday 17 December 2020, 9:58
Still the same. Royal Mail has not attempted to deliver my letter, according to its website. I wonder if a guy I know as Nathan has anything to do with that. He once walked up to me at the local large Tesco (Craswell Street), made the mysterious statement that he and I had never seen eye to eye or something along those lines – huh? wtf was he going on about? – then said that Royal Mail had offered him early retirement because of his severe problems with his spine and that he had accepted the offer. It turned out to be complete bullshit. I have no idea what this dude wanted from me. I don’t know him. He is someone who works at Royal Mail, who (says he) has severe back problems and I’ve brought him and his colleagues refreshments once on a hot day. (I also brought a tea from Greggs to a woman at Wilko on a freezing cold day once and I’ve once given my postie in Southampton a refreshment on a hot summer’s day. I don’t do that kind of thing in other countries, can’t recall any instances.) Other than that, I don’t know him, but he seems to have had some kind of issue with me for a long time. No idea what it might be. I saw him walking toward me on Arundel Street a few weeks ago and I decided to cross the road so that I could avoid him. I have no idea what his problem is and what his problem with me is. He initially seemed really friendly, just a regular guy, friendlier than his colleagues. The guy meanwhile has started to give me the creeps. He was also the one who handed me that package with wet and muddied fairly random letters from about 6 months and he was the one who told me about the package with the SSE modem that apparently had been sitting at the post office for a while after I tried to switch broadband providers for so long, in vain, when he saw me in Lake Road one day.

Portsmouth seems to abound with these types of folks. (Like this “Nathan”, I mean. But he used to have a genuinely pleasant and sane colleague whose son is a scientist. That guy left, though. Overall, Portsmouth is toxic. A lot of that has to do with the widespread deep poverty here as a result of the staggering inequality in England.)

 

Update Wednesday 16 December 2020, 11:45
The item was posted First Class Signed For on Saturday 12 December 2020 at 2:34pm at the Portsmouth Post Office [PO1 1AB] and still Royal Mail has not attempted to deliver this letter, according to the Royal Mail website.


This one (PDF): Letter Dated 11 December 2020

That older letter that I mention in the above letter had been sent “1st Class Signed For” and it was signed for. So was another letter I sent at about the same time. There was no response to either letter.

There was no response either to the e-mail I sent to Grant Murphy on 30 August 2019, in which I wrote that it was high time for a genuine and serious talk. I suggested meeting at his office on 3 September 2019 at 11am or 2pm.

I usually get ignored when I contact him or his staff for whatever reason, but when they want me to stop by and I contact them and say that I will do so two workdays later because I am hard at work for a client who I can’t let down, I often get a lot of angry words back.

When I wrote to them on 31 October 2016 about “problems at 6 Kingston Road”, I got no response back.

Mon, Oct 31, 2016, 11:23 AM

This was right after I spoke with Grant Murphy on the phone when I called him while I was at Fratton Train station, waiting for my train. He picked up the phone with something like “Student accommodation” but when I said that I thought I had called a different number and was looking for a Mr Murphy, he said that it was him. He told me that people picking the locks all the time was no big deal, but if I wanted, I could install different locks. (I have done that, but it has not helped.) He also said, I think, to go talk to my MP because he seemed to agree more or less that Portsmouth Police is useless (after he suggested I contact police after which I told him that I had already done that many times).

Grant Murphy and I made an appointment to meet on the Saturday after I arrived back because he said he was often at our buildings on Saturday anyway, which surprised me (but I had never met him, so it’s possible). That Saturday, I waited and waited. He never showed.

The e-mail I sent after I spoke with Murphy on the phone I wrote on the train, I am sure, as it was far from my most eloquent e-mail message, but I was upset and I felt that the problems at 6 Kingston Road were seriously getting out of hand to the point of the situation now becoming completely unworkable. (Someone had just emptied dumped one or two liters of ice cream on the doormat of the ground-floor neighbours in some kind of bizarre prank. It is one of the many results consequences of the building not being secure.)

Some weeks ago, I contacted Hants Fire about the rubbish again, which I had wanted to do many times before. (But it all feels soooooooooooo futile. Nobody in England or Portsmouth gives a damn about anything, it often feels like, to me. Nobody here cares. Is that too the result of Britain’s staggering inequality? If not, where does it come from?)

This is part of what I received back.

This below is what I got in the end.

 

What has also happened is that someone closed my water account one or two years ago – I think it was Portsmouth Water – and a year ago, someone took control of my electricity account and apparently transferred it so many times in a row that the account completely got lost along the way. I have electricity but I don’t know who supplies it (though I probably have made some calls about that by the time this post goes live). The account was transferred by someone who had the meter’s number and all my personal data, such as DOB and address and postcode; such data are in the possession of many people, of course, hence offer no security at all.

This is what happened the previous time, which must have been about a year after I spoke about this at the offices of Grant Murphy and had given up on the rubbish as I couldn’t afford to remove it myself:

I have also previously advised Ruth Mbvundula not to accept Grant Murphy’s refusal to refund her deposit as, in my opinion, his reason for refusing to return the deposit was likely also his fault and I felt that a compromise might be in order. I referred her to the tenancy matters department at Portsmouth City Council.


For the record this is more or less what I recently wrote to Hants Fire, part of which I also let them know in 2018:

Good afternoon Mark,

Thank you for your message.

1. It concerns two buildings, an older one and a newer one, each housing three flats, at 6 Kingston Road, Portsmouth PO1 5RZ. These buildings are owned by Mr Grant Murphy and/or one of his companies. He and his companies can be reached via the Royal Beach Hotel, St Helens Parade, Southsea PO4 0RN; the hotel is currently closed, however. (Guinness owns the newer buildings next to Murphy’s. It was Guinness that removed the rubbish previously, indeed.)

2. The lock to the back door of the older front building is often jammed from the outside. I do not know whether that means that the lock is also jammed for anyone wanting to exit through that door as we in the building at the back do not have keys to the front door of that building. Last time I tried that back door to see if I had any postal mail, a few days ago, the lock was jammed again.

3. Before the start of the present lockdown, some of the landlord’s staff removed a lot of branches among other things. These branches have been on our patio since then, though someone moved them slightly because the heap of branches (dead wood) was blocking access to the back door of the front building. They were in front of the door there.

4. The rubbish is mostly in an open shed and includes a mattress that sticks out a bit. When this area was filled with junk before, it was deemed a fire hazard by your colleague. I had already gotten rid of as much as I could (called scrap metal people and had some people from a charity shop take a look), thinking that it all had been dumped there by others, not by our landlord. When I went to talk with the landlord about getting the remainder removed, I was admonished when I said that I had already gotten rid of some of the junk. I have also offered to help the foreman clean out the area, but my offer was ignored. Last year, I took photos of what the situation was like back then and included printouts of the photos in my letter to the landlord.

5. It may also be helpful to know that my landlord’s legal adviser is a Mr David Lancaster.

I hope this gives you enough information.

Best regards,

Angelina Souren


 

It may be generally interesting to know that I also once caught a landlord/lady dumping stuff in my forecourt when I was living in Southsea. I talked with her about it. I’d previously taken stuff to the tip that had left behind by another landlord/lady as I happened to have rented a van anyway at the time.

I have also heard this rubbish dumping being blamed on foreign tenants, at the Portsmouth Environmental Forum. In my experience, it’s usually landlords who do this.

I know that a lot of English people are not going to understand anything of the above. Why do I bother? One thing I’ve learned in my 16 years in England is that, here, it makes absolutely no difference what you do. True. So you might as well do the right thing. In my view, it means that you stay true to your values even if there is nothing else you can do. And that feels a heck of lot better than just rolling over and closing your eyes.

Well well well

I just found a letter at my door, went into my computer and found that even more files have been deleted while I was not looking. Private files, to do with my living situation. My housing. But of course!

In addition, our water had been shut off and we no longer have any lighting in our pitch-dark staircase at night. The lighting had been removed. (12 Dec: And a timer. Used so that the lights only were on during certain hours.) Is that even legal, Mr Grant Murphy?!

(12 Dec: Assuming that it was you who did that, Mr Murphy, which of course is an extremely far-fetched idea, in which case we had a strange kind of vandal burglar in the house. But if it was you… well…)

It probably means that if I fall down the stairs now and land in hospital, you are liable. The same goes for neighbours.

 

Newcastle, four-and-a-half years ago

When this is what your life is like, your world shrinks very rapidly, and with it, your opportunities disappear too, and it’s not your fault.

There have been experiments, also in TV series, in which they gave a family £26,000 so that they could finally DO something and turn their lives around. You see people blossom, find jobs, start businesses and keep them going.

UK government’s lost again

The Supreme Court has just undone benefit cuts dubbed the bedroom tax for severely disabled people. This issue has been playing for years.

This is the umptieth court case to do with the UK government betraying its own citizens, and the government loses about 99% of them.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/13/uk-government-loses-supreme-court-fight-over-bedroom-tax

Landlords…

Never had any problems with landlords in the Netherlands. Never.

Had three in Florida. The first and the third were fine, but the second one was not and his attorney was rumoured to have mafia ties, I kid you not. But I heard that later. I think it was actually a legal aid lawyer who told me that who I talked with later, long after I’d moved out and his lawyer started pestering me. I’ll spare you the details.

My third landlord was the husband of the person I volunteered with on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. (He was a builder, built huge places, the way they are in Florida. Nice guy. I think he was in the US Army for a while, and they lived in places like Morocco. ) She stopped by one day – to bring me two birds – and was appalled and suggested I move in to one of their places. They owned a small apartment building that was mostly used by snowbirds (people from for example Canada who take winter vacations in Florida).

Some time later, I moved to Britain.

In Southampton, I knew several landlords. (Only one of them was mine.)

One said that only educated people were decent human beings, and I was too shocked to respond. He called tenants who rang him because the washing machine or heating wasn’t working (properly) “bad tenants”. This was not my own landlord, but someone I met within a business context and was friendly with for a while. Wasn’t actually a bad guy at all, strangely enough.

I also knew one who proudly told me how he had tricked an elderly woman with beginning Alzheimer’s out of her flat, I kid you not.

On another occasion, the same guy was talking with me about a new building he was constructing and then added that it did not have to be very good “as it is only for tenants”.

In Portsmouth, I’ve met two who dump rubbish on other people’s front courts and patios. I caught one red-handed and the other one admitted it.

I have principles.

If I can help make things better for people who come after me who are less strong in some way – okay, except physically as I am getting old and I am feeling it – I will try to do that. And that baffles the hell out of (most) Brits. But that is not my problem.

Why Portsmouth should diminish traffic

I wrote an article about it on LinkedIn. If you’re interested, you can find it, and you don’t need me to post the link here. Southampton can’t do anything as drastic as this. Bournemouth can’t. Chichester can’t. London can’t. But Portsmouth can.

And Portsmouth can turn this into a giant plus and use it to boost the economy, but it won’t. Because it is drowning in crap such as bullying and corruption, also at city council level, and likes seeing itself as the powerless whining underdog a little bit too much. There is very little true vision left in this town, where too much of the focus is on traditional capitalism and on the past. The industries of the past are GONE, folks. Quit waffling about that and move forward.

Here are a few links to supporting studies:

All I hear is stupid excuses.

  • The impact of cars on our space

    No space for trams. Sure there is!

  • The people with more than 2 cars will protest and shout very loudly. Wear ear plugs! (What about the 80 or 90% or 95% of the rest of your population? 70% have no car or only 1 car. Many of Portsmouth’s inhabitants hardly ever get out of Portsmouth.)
  • Shop owners will complain. Show them that most of their customers are actually coming from within a small radius and give them decent business support! Most are probably delusional in thinking that their customers come from miles away and may blame traffic measures for their own failures (a certain pet supplies shop owner comes to mind).
  • A certain lawyer will whine. Tell her to shut up. She doesn’t know what she is talking about. (If she makes you feel stupid and ignorant, that’s because she is talking complete rubbish!)

Continue reading

Trouble finding a home to rent in Britain?

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Tony Blair on social engineering

Interview with Mark Easton, BBC. Date unknown, but near the end of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Keep in mind that “hooliganism” and “anti-social behaviour” are often labels used to indicate (and reject) people from a lower socioeconomic class in Britain and that this “hooliganism” for example gets expressed in graffiti.

Of course, causing (increased) financial hardship for parents by taking any benefits away is most definitely not “in the best interest of the child”.

Tony Blair did consider graffiti “anti-social behaviour”. During a photo-op as part of his crusade, he hosed down graffiti and said that older generations of his family would have abhorred such behaviour. It then turned out that his own grandmother had been a “commie” graffiti vandal.

There probably is a work by Banksy somewhere in response to all of this.

Tony Blair also criminalized a lot of behavior that is essentially merely human behavior. That too was in nobody’s best interest and probably did nothing toward decreasing inequality in Britain.

It did not enable (more) people to flourish.

Are energy efficiency programmes all they seem?

Ross Gillard, University of York and Carolyn Snell, University of York

The cost of energy in the UK is once again a hot topic. During the party conference season, Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, announced that the Scottish government will set up a publicly owned, not for profit energy company. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn restated his wish to nationalise utility companies to “stop the public being ripped off”. And the Conservative prime minister Theresa May promised to fix the “broken” energy market, in part by imposing a cap on some domestic energy prices.

The UK government swiftly followed this season of rhetoric with two supporting policy announcements. It has drawn up draft legislation to set an energy price cap, although this may take until the winter of 2018/19 to be enacted. Second, it has published a clean growth strategy, which promises “cleaner air, lower energy bills, greater economic security and a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future”.

It’s not easy to address the social, environmental and economic dimensions of domestic energy in one go, as these different goals interact with each other. For example, a price cap clearly makes energy more affordable, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of energy needed or used. While the sheer price of energy is problematic for many people, so too is inefficient housing which increases bills and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The clean growth strategy addresses this by reconfirming a commitment to require large energy companies to install efficiency measures such as insulation and heating systems. This scheme, the energy company obligation (ECO), now has £3.6 billion in funding through to 2028. It aims to help 2.5m fuel-poor households. Alongside stricter regulations within the private rented sector, the ECO is intended to upgrade all fuel-poor homes to a decent standard by 2030.

But it’s worth putting the rhetoric and promises of these policy announcements into context. Help for people in fuel poverty has decreased since 2010, largely due to the coalition government abandoning publicly funded schemes in England in favour of privately funded energy supplier obligations like ECO. Though social and environmental policies do add to fuel bills, policymakers assume that this increase is more than offset by people using less energy thanks to efficiency savings.

How much heat is escaping out of your windows?
Ivan Smuk / shutterstock

In our research we are currently looking at whether ECO is an effective way to address affordability and energy efficiency in vulnerable people’s homes. England is the only one of the four UK nations that relies solely on this market-driven scheme, so it’s important to evaluate its impact. We recently highlighted a number of potential problems, and solutions. To begin with, only certain people are eligible. Proxies such as welfare benefits, demographics and postcodes are used, but they can arbitrarily exclude households on the margins of these measures who may indeed be vulnerable.

People also struggle to upgrade their homes if the work does not enable a certain amount of carbon savings at a certain price. In other words, private companies are likely to prioritise meeting their statutory obligations rather than findings and helping the most vulnerable households. Even for those that do secure funding, it’s at best a long and complicated process. Some upgrades are never completed because installers are not equipped to manage the needs of people with, for example, disabilities or mental health conditions.

What is clear from our comparative research of the UK nations is that state funded schemes, such as nest in Wales and home energy efficiency programmes in Scotland, are better able to target, and respond to the needs of, vulnerable households. Market driven schemes are different as they will, by definition, seek out the most cost effective work. But this ceases to be an asset once the low-hanging fruit has all been picked, and those with the greatest need (and potentially higher costs) are left subsidising other people’s housing upgrades.

The ConversationAn energy price cap will certainly provide some initial relief. But unless it is continually ratcheted down or extended to more customers it will not provide long-term savings or wider benefits. Increasing investment in energy efficiency ticks more social and environmental boxes, but the regressive approach to funding such a scheme in England means it will continue prioritising cost-effective carbon savings over helping those most in need.

Ross Gillard, Research associate, University of York and Carolyn Snell, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Investing in people’s futures

“IMF research has shown that excessive inequality hinders growth and hollows out the country’s economic foundation. It erodes trust within society and fuels political tensions.”

In the past three decades, economic inequality between countries has declined sharply, said Christine Lagarde at her recent public speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“But if we look at inequality within countries, especially some advanced economies, we see widening gaps and an increased concentration of wealth among the top earners.”

There are no lesser human beings and higher human beings. That idea is a fallacy. Greater equality brings greater happiness, particularly if it lifts everyone who is in deep poverty out of it, and even benefits those at the top.

In 1981, the average top marginal tax rate in advanced economies was 62%. In 2015, it was 35%. New IMF research (which will be published next week) suggests that some advanced economies could raise their top tax rates without slowing growth. “Worth considering.”

“What is not yet done is only what we have not yet attempted to do.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

Homelessness, housing duty and vulnerability

Today is the third of three days at the Supreme Court that focus on homelessness, housing duty and vulnerability (or rather, priority).

courthouseThe three cases are:
– Hotak (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)
– Johnson (Appellant) v Solihull MBC (Respondent)
– Kanu (AP) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)

(Interveners in all three cases:
Equality and Human Rights Commission, Shelter, Crisis and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.)

What is it all about? Predominantly 189(1)(c) in the Housing Act 1996:

189 Priority need for accommodation.

(1) The following have a priority need for accommodation—

(a) a pregnant woman or a person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(b) a person with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(c) a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(d )a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order—

(a) specify further descriptions of persons as having a priority need for accommodation, and

(b) amend or repeal any part of subsection (1).

(3) Before making such an order the Secretary of State shall consult such associations representing relevant authorities, and such other persons, as he considers appropriate.

(4) No such order shall be made unless a draft of it has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

Hotak is a pretty straightforward case, at first sight; the two other cases are less clear. Hotak concerns two brothers, one of which (Sifatullah) would certainly be considered vulnerable if the other one (Ezatullah) had not said that he would look after his brother. The brothers were living in a friend’s flat in Southwark, but told to leave because of overcrowding. Ezatullah’s immigration status at the time, however, made him ineligible for housing assistance.

Southwark did give the brothers temporary housing while it made its mind up. It decided that Sifatullah was unintentionally homeless, and eligible for assistance, yet did not consider him vulnerable in terms of in priority need of housing because his brother was looking after him. This is where the case went off the rails.

If Sifatullah were a pregnant woman, unintentionally homeless (as it is called), and eligible for assistance, whether the person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside supports her or not makes no difference, as one of the lawyers highlighted on Monday.

Another one pointed out that the law does not contain an element of comparison. A person’s own condition makes him or her relatively vulnerable when on the street, and the law had the intention of preventing and eliminating all homelessness. This would mean that a) there is no such thing as “an ordinary street-homeless person” (used by Southwark to compare Sifatullah against) and b) one could say that being homeless in itself already points toward a person being less able to fend for himself or herself, as homelessness is not the norm in this country.

It looks like the practice of the application of this legislation – carried out by the decision-making housing officer – has been moving toward comparing a blind applicant with street-homeless blind applicants, deaf applicants with street-homeless deaf applicants, mentally ill applicants with street-homeless mentally ill applicants, applicants with substance abuse with homeless people with substance abuse.

More specifically, practice seems to be more and more relying on the premise that all homeless persons are, almost by definition, street-homeless mentally ill and/or substance abusers and/or physically ill, deserving no special protection (in Johnson, for instance). The law was not intended that way. The law does not even say anything like this.

The pregnant woman, however, is never compared with other pregnant women to determine her vulnerability. The same applies to any persons who have lost their home in a flood.

“Ideas about vulnerability are perhaps most often applied by those in more powerful positions to define those in less powerful ones.” (Kate Brown)

Housing matters at the Supreme Court – 5

Today in Court 2:
Aster Communities Limited (formerly Flourish Homes Limited) (Respondent) v Akerman-Livingstone (AP) (Appellant)

courthouseNot broadcast live.

A clear case of a causal relationship between someone’s disability and the reason for issuing proceedings, in my view. Someone unable to comply with what is expected from him. (One could see it as maladministration, perhaps.)

Will the Supreme Court see a violation of the Equality Act and let this weigh heavier or will other interests overrule?

Not an easy case.

Update: still went live later.

PS
See also my earlier post about this case.

Housing matters at the Supreme Court – 4

courthouse

Coming up first is Aster v Akerman-Livingstone, on 10 December.

lady justice Hotak v London Borough of Southwark has been moved and is now scheduled together with two more cases, Kanu v London Borough of Southwark and  Johnson v Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, on 15 to 17 December. Central question: What is “vulnerability”, in housing matters?