As you’ve opened all your presents and you’re on your third glass of bucks fizz of the morning, Getintothis‘ Jono Podmore sits us gently down by the fireside to bring us our yearly seasonal reality check.
It’s Christmas again. I expect you’re sitting comfortably in a Chesterfield armchair, next to an open fire. It’s your living room, warm and decked out with all the traditional decorations: the tree laden with baubles, the cards arranged along the bookcase and the welsh dresser.
Am I right?
Am I fuck.
But WHY aren’t you in this scene? You deserve it after all. You have a job, you pay your taxes, you work as hard as the guys earning 6 figure bonuses in the banking sector; you might even have two jobs, or run your own business. You might be in full time education and still have some sort of part-time employment. Problem is you just can’t afford to be in that scene. If you have managed to wangle yourself as much as a living room that doesn’t also happen to be where you sleep, cook, eat, bathe, defecate, then that space will be one of the following:
– owned by someone else that you pay an extortionate rent to, near bankrupting yourself and generating cash for them on the basis of nothing but their wealth
– owned by someone else that you need to retain a good relationship with to continue to sit there with your mince pies
– owned by the building society who let you live in it because you pay them more in interest than the value of the place
If none of the above then you’re in a lucky minority: it’s owned outright by you, or your local authority.
But if not, it means that, like me, between now and next festive season, some faceless trader in gilts or bonds could set in motion a series of events that could see you back in front of a real fire, but this time in an oil drum on waste ground before you try to sleep on earth as hard as iron.
Melodramatic? It couldn’t happen to me?
All the safeguards to prevent this happening are being unpicked by our current government for 3 reasons:
1 – to generate more cash for themselves and their benefactors in the financial sector
2 – to keep you working hard, looking over your shoulder at that colleague who might be in line for your job, fearing that an immigrant or refugee might get more from society than you do, making you constantly distracted and terrified.
3 – to clear the likes of you out of areas of cities they need to provide for a wealthy international elite who will benefit from TAXHAVEN-UK™
One of my closest friends works at Crisis, The national charity for single homeless people. She’s been there over 10 years, meets and works with homeless people every day. In all that time she has met just ONE person who was homeless by choice. People end up on the street for all sorts of reasons: unpredictable life events, which are, under the auspices of the vicious bastards running this country, becoming increasingly economic.
The charity has to watch, horrified, as pressure on housing increases in an uncontrolled market which leaves, surprise surprise, the poor and the vulnerable suffering the most; while the richest landlords, and the financial institutions behind them profit to a degree ordinary humans can not begin to contemplate.
Crisis isn’t the only charity charting this process: Shelter and Joseph Rowntree Foundation are also fighting to resist this immoral onslaught on those who can protect themselves least. There’s also http://www.whobenefits.org.uk/ – a coalition of UK charities have come together as they are all seeing conditions lurch from bad to worse for their clients. They are watching support for people, including huge amounts of children, the disabled, and the mentally ill, being slashed and their clients ending up on the street. Families who have lost their bread winner. Children who had a parent die of cancer – growing up to be long term homeless with all the additional health problems that brings.
93,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas day this year. Disease, injury, death of a loved one: that’s what unpredictable life events are – things that can happen to any of us. For every cut to the benefits system, the legacy is an increasingly long term cost to us as a society while enormous benefits in the form of tax cuts and uncollected taxation is given in its billions to the ultra-rich.
So if there’s so little to keep a roof over your head you better pay your bills on time because it could be a month’s notice to quit – or worse – at any moment. How are you going to pay for that roof if you’ve been trained as a research chemist, clarinettist or civil engineer? Better retrain, mate, and get yourself in the only boom industry in town – housing!!
I was at a funeral yesterday.
A good friend of mine was a top-flight audio engineer; recording and mixing household name artists from the 70s through to the 90s. Due to greed and mis-management this creative industry was squeezed, and as he had kids to provide for he changed tack and set up a business doing attic conversions. In part down to the demands, discipline, meticulous attention to detail and people skills involved in the craft of audio engineering, he was damn good at his new career.
A few weeks ago he fell off a ladder and died of his injuries.
There’s now a family fatherless with its income slashed. Another nail hammered in to the coffin of our cultural life. More victims to add to the list.
And as if to rub salt in the wounds, a studio he had worked at, Sarm West, is to be closed and turned into … luxury flats.
All across Britain our culture is at risk as the housing market becomes the only driving force in our fundamentally moribund economy.
I’ve seen the projected tory future of Britain. I’ve been there a couple of times. It’s called Monaco. A tax haven owned and run by a tiny, stratospherically rich aristocratic elite. What’s striking about the place when you are there is that it looks, and in some perverse way, even feels like a 1960’s housing estate – only with red carpet on the pavements and shops selling Maseratis rather than Special Brew.
Endless multi-storey blocks of luxury flats, grey concrete edifices, all empty. To achieve the tax exemptions you just need an address and some proof you are there once in a while, so there’s thousands of these tiny flats – with chandeliers, sitting empty. No culture, no population but lots of stinking money. Money that smells worse than the piss stained stairwells of the council estates of Britain. Money that reeks of blood diamonds, human traffic, slavery, weapons and war.
But what are we to do if our training, our vocation simply doesn’t pay the mortgage or the rent? If we don’t want to end 2015 huddled under a bridge then we have to “monetise” another asset – like – our homes! Why not do some plastering, a bit of decorating, invest in a bit of emulsion and there you go! Rooms to rent! Then with that you can buy another place entirely, spend a year or so (or more…. and more) doing that up and you’ve got a business on your hands, as long as you don’t fall off that fucking ladder. A proper, modern unregulated business. You are SURE that with just a little more paint over those subsidence cracks you’ll be able to charge another £150 a month on the rent. It’s the going rate, how can it be unfair?
You’re not a sculptor, or a surgeon or a ballerina any more. You’re a property developer, a landlord. What are you giving society now? Another masterpiece of introspection? A cure for Ebola? No – you don’t provide anymore, you’re simply moving wealth around in the great whirlpool of the market. And with every transaction, every time your debt and the debt you are generating in others is passed from hand to hand, the fraudulent banksters gets a cut.
All this by monetising A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT – that of shelter.
What’s more the government are on YOUR side all of a sudden! Why vote against an organisation that victimises the poor and the disabled, when they are offering you tax breaks to play THEIR game? THEIR game pays the fucking bills; it’s the game of generating wealth from imagined values, from nothings, while paving the way for an underclass of serfs to do the bidding of the baronial power brokers.
Until…until…enough of the hedge funds bet against your housing boom and the value disappears overnight – and even you can’t pay your debts and that night sleeping in a doorway gets a little closer. So it’s another layer of emulsion, split that flat in 2 bedsits to double the rental value, use cheaper materials, forget about the fire risk, work harder, HARDER at it until that restaurant you were always going to open is just a pale memory.
It’ll never happen… except it did, only 6 years ago, and the nasty, short sighted psychopaths that run our government are lining us up for it to happen again, because the smart money made a killing in 2008.
So what to do?
With the risk of sounding obvious, voting is the surest way to change a government. There’s a general election coming up before Xmas 2015 and it’s the solemn duty of anyone on an income less than £1,000,000 a year (plus bonuses) to get the current right wing gangsters out of government. Use your vote tactically to get the Tories or the Lib Dems out of power. Most of the time this will mean voting Labour, but there are worse fates than a Labour government. They will institute a mansion tax, and have pledged to bring an end to the bedroom tax.
They will fuck up, they will be in thrall to the big money, one or two of them will be found with their paws in the till, but they do not exist solely for the profit of the international super rich and they do not intend to reduce you to a serf – a peasant, grateful to them for the very air that you breathe.
And when we have another government, how about lobbying them to regulate estate agents, and therefore regulate the insane volatility of the housing market, in much the same way as lawyers are regulated? This comedy:
And how about not using the property you control to screw a few last pennies out of your fellow humans?
How about turning off the TV, with this plethora of daytime bullshit attempting to normalise the entire process of commercialising your resources to fleece you neighbour? The Renovation Game, Escape to the Country, Cash in the Attic, My Dream Derelict Home, all that witless shit with its insidious jargon of property in place of home, housing or shelter. Get their Grand Designs off YOUR life.
You might have supported the people on the New Era estate; they will not be the last in this predicament, so keep up the good work
Or how about supporting homeless charities? In the short term £21.62 will get a homeless person off the streets for Christmas:
…and while you’re about it thank your lucky star there’s a chimney for Santa climb down and find you this year because who knows what next year may bring…
So Merry Christmas to you all and let’s make sure we see out 2015 with roofs over our heads and a fairer administration in the UK.