In through the “poor door”, poor things.

imageThere’s been a lot of well-intentioned furore about the social segregation of rich and poor in the development of some upmarket inner city “luxury apartments” recently.

The problem seems to centre around 34% of “affordable housing” being included in a “luxury” development in Commercial Street, London and the fact that those residents are excluded from the 5 star hotel like lobby and the associated expensive concierge services, which cost several thousand a year.

The housing association, who run the “affordable” housing side of things, eschew the high service charges and charge low rents to people who need low cost housing and housing benefit due to their circumstances.

In an ideal world, we’d all have affordable housing, but with the sell off of social housing, an ongoing housing boom and an increasing earnings gap between rich and poor, it isn’t going to happen.

Ken Livingstone instigated the ruling that new developers in London had to ensure that part of their development allocated homes for local people either on low salaries or benefits, in order to ensure that rich ghettos were avoided. Great ideology of equality, but the reality hasn’t turned out quite as expected.

The wealthier residents have issues with the poorer residents and vice versa. It seems to rub both groups up the wrong way.

I was homeless at one time for a year and I lived in horrendous conditions without sanitation or power in a disused building with a transient group of others.

As time went by, the conditions worsened and it became a health hazard for all residents, including the need for fumigation and the building’s eventual demolition.

I applied to a housing association and was given a 6 month tenure on a very old 2 bedroom terraced house with another occupier.

It was semi derelict, with the downstairs area full of rubble, broken floor boards and vermin and the upstairs just about liveable, once some heavy cleaning, decoration and sealing up the damp areas were dealt with at our own cost.

It wasn’t the nicest of places to be and in an impoverished part of London with poor transport links. We never felt entirely safe.

I still thought I was lucky and having a fixed abode, I quickly found employment, even though it entailed an hour on the bus there and back. I could pay the low rent and all the bills and other charges associated with it.

Many years later, I lived in a so-called “luxury” block, paying a massive service charge and mortgage, to have fellow residents blank me if I said “Good morning” in the lift.

The worst of this was the one London block I lived in, when there was a major fire in the flat above mine and the other residents didn’t even bother to knock on people’s doors to alert them as they went past!

The endless quibbles about parking and use of the communal gardens were also a delight! I’ve never lived in proximity to such a vile, self-centered, unfriendly bunch.

Why would anyone want to share a tacky, blinging, marble lobby with people like that? And pay dearly for the “privilege”?

When I was homeless, If I had been offered a brand new flat in a central location, with a secure entrance, a lobby that was cleaned & maintained and secure postboxes and a serviced lift that didn’t smell of piss, I would have been delighted.

The housing association tenants of the property in the news (1 Commercial Street, London) are not, however. Why? Because they have to use their own side entrance, lobby and lift. They are claiming it’s “unfair”!

The residents who DO have the swanky lobby with a 24 hour concierge desk which offers everything from collecting dry cleaning to booking taxis, theatre tickets, letting tradesmen in while you are out and whatever else a concierge does – costs a whopping £5k a year. Those residents also get a parking space and a different place to put their bins – but pay upwards of £500k for a studio flat!

You have to ask who’s being ripped off here? It’s not the housing association tenants!

Every place in the world has its rich and poor and for millennia they have lived in different places according to what they can afford to pay.

To get the level of support the affordable housing tenants get is a quickly diminishing and civilised ‘luxury’ in this case – especially given how many people are forced to live in dilapidated and dangerous estates or cramped bed & breakfast accommodation.

So, having seen both sides of this personally, I feel that, in his case, those residents doth protest far too much.

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