Back in the early 80s I did what many people arriving in London did: I squatted in a house that had been left empty. Anyone doing the same after Saturday will be a criminal.
The house in question was owned by the Greater London Council (GLC) and like many others owned by local authorities all over London it had been left empty for years because of a road scheme that never was or a slum clearance scheme that was never finished. Nobody was living there and, given the big hole in the floor of one of the bedrooms and the water streaming down the walls of most of the others, that was understandable. So when we squatted it we were not denying anybody else a home, we were simply fixing it up and creating one for ourselves in what became one more squat in a whole street of squats. Given that we were all on the dole (this was 1981, the worst time to be a graduate until now) we were probably even saving the taxpayer money.
Anyone wondering why the housing market is so dysfunctional can find plenty of explanations in figures released over the last few days.
Exhibit one: the Bank of England’s account of the effect its £375 billion (so far) quantitative easing programme. Most of the publicity has gone to the revelation that the richest 5 per cent of the population have gained 40 per cent of the benefits as the result of the way it has inflated the prices of assets like shares. However, it also includes an estimate of the way that borrowers have benefitted at the expense of savers because of record low interest rates. The total impact of lower rates on secured lending (mostly mortgages) is estimated at £94.4 billion since September 2008.
I was nine years old when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon and uttered the immortal words that he didn’t quite get right.
At the time the landing seemed most memorable because we got the day off school to watch it. In retrospect, of course, it was almost the end of term anyway so the teachers were probably glad to pack us all off into a room to watch TV.
Re-watching it now the main thing that strikes me is how blurry and black and white it looks but it was a completely different story then. It’s important to remember that hardly anyone had a colour TV and live TV of any kind was pretty primitive, so it did not seem that way at the time. The whole thing with the beeps on the soundtrack etched its way so far into the national consciousness that we would be doing them on the school playground for months afterwards.
Here’s why I think the housing backlash against the Montague report is being overdone.
From some of the reactions so far, the review group seem to a bunch of pin-striped latter-day Rachmans intent on squeezing out affordable housing and trousering the profits in between slaughtering the first born and unleashing plague, pestilence and famine.
Read the rest of this post at Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing