Friday, 18 October 2013

"Mixed communities"

Let's take another glimpse into the swirling maelstrom of Homey platitudes and identify a few more which cancel each other out.

From some official DCLG research:

... the rationale for mixed communities is that substantial diversification of housing type and tenure, combined with improvements to facilities, services and opportunities will both improve life chances for disadvantaged residents and attract new wealthier residents.

This will lead to a new dynamic including increased land values and a better-functioning housing market, reducing overall concentrations of deprivation.

Lower income residents will benefit from increased resources and social interaction with better-off residents. Neighbourhoods will thus be less reliant on repeated 'regeneration'.

That's the theory (the research goes on to say that there is no actual real life evidence of such results being achieved), and this is one of the reasons/excuses given for flogging off the council housing at undervalue to those who could afford it:

The 'mixed tenure' policy with greatest impact on individuals and neighbourhoods to date has been the Right to Buy, with two million homes sold, against fewer than 100,000 for all the other low cost home ownership initiatives combined.

The Homeys continue to ignore real life evidence that the policy does not achieve its stated aim and they insist that the "mixed community" is a good concept with good outcomes and hence justification for flogging off council houses. Quite how we jumped from "mixed community" to "mixed tenure" is another topic.

Now, in two ever so slightly different contexts, Homeys oppose "mixed communities" with absolute venom:

1. When higher earners, particularly a middle class hate figure like Bob Crow, continue to rent a council house

They are, allegedly, stealing from the taxpayer, depriving low earners of affordable housing etc.

But surely they are is still making that council estate more "mixed" by living there, which is A Good Thing, isn't it? Serving as a positive role model and all that?

Why is it that on Planet Homey, if higher earners bought their council houses and are now living there rent-free, i.e. contributing less back to the taxpayer, then they are not stealing from the taxpayer, they are not depriving a low earner of affordable housing - and they are serving as positive role models as a bonus - but not if they are still renting?

2. When it comes to new construction

The "mixed community" model says that in an area, there should be affordable rented housing for low earners (i.e. council housing) and there should be more expensive privately owned housing for middle and high earners to buy.

But if the council says that x% of a new development has to be affordable housing, or, Heaven forfend, the council just gets on with it and builds some social housing near privately owned housing, then the NIMBYs (the radical wing of the Homey movement) scream blue murder. There is no room at our inn, they shriek, there's no need for it, and we don't want chavscum round our way dragging down the neighbourhood and our lovely house prices.


Thus we can safely say that Homeys do not believe in "mixed communities" except when it suits them (i.e. they don') and in any event, on the facts, the policy does not work.


Kj said...

Well you can have more mixed communities without "affordability" requirements, rent controls etc.. You just allow building, subdividing existing buildings, any uses the owner wants except industrial. Add LVT ofcourse. So you can get really small flats, shared flats/houses in expensive areas. Ofcourse this is another thing the Homeys would oppose I guess.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Kj, the Homeys have ready answers to that:

1. LVT will drive everybody out of their won community, away from friends and family.

2. Rich people will desert nice areas to avoid tax.

3. Poor people will end up in ghettoes full of poor people.

4. That will lead to overcrowding, pressure on local services, will make the area less attractive, attract the wrong sort of people (i.e. poor people will end up with a toehold in expensive areas).

All of these completely contradict each other of course,

You can point out that most people would pay less tax in even the short term, that in any area there is usually a mix of big houses and small flats, so even if low income people leave their actual house, they can move a few streets away etc, but they don't deal in logic or facts.

L fairfax said...

"The "mixed community" model says that in an area, there should be affordable rented housing for low earners (i.e. council housing) "
It is not for all low earners it is for low earners who meet the arbitary conditions to have a council house. Sadly working in that area does not help you get a council house.

Mark Wadsworth said...

LF, that's a fair point.

But if you don't have price rationing there has to be some other form of rationing, like waiting lists or the council's arbitrary conditions.