Silas

Friday, June 30, 2006

Warning: Rant Alert!

This kinda follows on from the Barcelona post below. But will go off at a tangent, as I am wont to do. You might want to skip this, to be honest.

This development of cities as playgrounds for the rich is happening everywhere I've been over the past ten years: Las Vegas, Tokyo, Paris, Edinburgh, Newcastle and of course, London. It's like there's some kind of conspiracy going on to deliberately exclude the only people who were actually prepared to live in city centres a decade or two ago. Home-owners coming back and kicking out the tenants - "thanks for looking after the place while we didn't want to live in it, but we're back now, so piss off".

When I was growing up in Newcastle, I took pictures of the quayside for my Photography 'A' Level and I'm glad I did. It has, unsurprisingly, completely changed and I'm not sure for the better to be honest. There used to be derelict warehouses which are now very expensive flats. There were fish markets, which are now bars. And what was the Baltic Flour Mill, is now an international arts centre.

I'm not complaining about the introduction of arts centres and bars where you don't get stabbed (as often), and it is great that the once derelict buildings are actually being used again. Again, I'm not suggesting that things were better when "I were a lad" or harking back (a la Heartbeat) for a time and place that never existed. What I'm complaining about is, why did we have to change areas that used to be used by businesses into expensive housing and bars that have a dress code?

Couldn't the city elders have thought, "you know what, the sort of businesses that used to use the area are gone, but our population is growing, so it would make sense for us to make those warehouses into social housing. Once people are living in the area, small businesses will be attracted into the area to serve the population. We will be happy as the increase in council tenants and new businesses will, in the long run, be financially prudent. The people will be so happy they will name streets after us, rather than us naming the streets after ourselves." Okay, so I made that last bit up, that would never happen. But the point remains.

This isn't exclusively about Newcastle, most of what I'm about to say would be perfectly applicable to the Docklands area of London. Or the quays of Exeter.

Why do the city council have to sell off their land to commercial companies in order to achieve the regeneration of an area? This leads to the regeneration of an area more often than not becoming a "gentrification" of an area. As the profit motive drives the prices of the completed property up, the make up of the area changes: there is a need to attract middle-class, high-income young couples who are the only people who can afford the property prices.

But how do you attract these DINKY (double income, no kids yet) couples into the previously run-down area? Push up business rates to extremely high levels to kill off any local shops or bars that have somehow managed to survive, thus removing any of their clientele, then knock down any empty buildings you don't want or need. Any shops that do come into the area then need to charge higher prices to their customers in order to make a profit, effectively stopping the old clientele from returning.

These (socially-)exclusive shops and bars attract more DINKY people into the area and other entertainment springs up to cater for the extra numbers. Other traditionally middle class pursuits arrive, such as theatres, classical music venues and art galleries. This then attracts more wealthy couples into the area, which attracts more restaurants and upmarket shops each hoping to compete by being more exclusive than their competitors. Without really trying too hard, the gentrification of the area becomes complete and the city leaders have achieved all this with the minimum of outlay.

But, and it's maybe a betrayal of my roots to even ask this question, what is so bad about the working class? Shouldn't central government, instead of promoting the idea of buying your own council house, be less concerned with short-term financial gains and actually planning how to maintain and improve social housing to the extent where many people wouldn't want to own their own home?

How did the Conservative government of the early 80's manage to persuade hundreds of thousands of people to buy their own house from their Local Authority, get themselves into mortgage-led debt and onto the consumerist treadmill where new and expensive is good? Why did millions of Britons buy shares in utility companies that they already owned (because they were previously state run) and make huge profits not for themselves, but for the banks and legal firms that oversaw the floatation?

By selling a lie.

By persuading people that the "free market" would allow them, by their own guile, to be financially better off. That they would no longer be at the bottom of the social ladder. That they would now have other people to look down on. And that actually havng the aspiration to look down on someone was "a good thing". But in order to do all of that, first of all you need to have a bank account. More specifically, you need a current account that won't pay you much interest, but will charge you a lot if you ever go into debt.

But you need to have a regular income into your bank's current account, not be paid cash directly by your employer - because you might spend it, you silly working class person. And as your big out-going is your mortgage and that's monthly, you should be paid monthly and not weekly - because if you got paid weekly, you might spend all your money each week and have nothing left for your mortgage. But of course, this will leave you a little short of cash about the middle of the month, so look, here's a credit card. Go on, spend on it, it's not real; it's plastic, it's flexible, it's your friend.

And then you're really fucked.

I will continue this tomorrow.

5 Comments:

Blogger kingoftheforks said...

Oh dear christ -

I managed one sentence, and then skipped to the end.

And I've already forgotten what I read.

Silas - la la la I can't hear you, I'm drinking my drink.

I dare you to try to get a reputable organ of the press to solicit your writing...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

10:52  
Blogger silas said...

Dare accepted. What would you consider to be reputable publications then?

10:59  
Blogger Sputnik said...

You want reputable publications I can sought those out for you if you want. I have a list of property publications as long as your arm. Well probably as long as my arm as yours are quite short.

Love U Mr Silas

15:19  
Blogger kingoftheforks said...

for the sake of fuck - publish that article in a property publication - that will go down a treat with the advertisers who pay for the rag in the first place.

Any of the national newspapers will do - even the sun or the sport - fuck it, even Viz.

You'll have to pick up the quality of your output though...

18:45  
Blogger silas said...

This partially forms part of a later posting.

08:58  

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