When Charles Darrow invented the Monopoly board game. He stuck this area at cheapest end of the board. Not much has changed. The Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle takes up that vast area between Walworth Road and Old Kent Road. It is one of the poorest areas in London. In the early 1990s I was called up to jury service at a trial for a series of people that had been arrested at a crack house on this estate. It wasn’t a comfortable experience. The trial revealed to me a troubled and frightening place that [...]
>Being a property anorak I couldn’t stop myself dragging my family around the Peckham House this weekend. It’s not empty, in fact it was full to bursting with visitors for the London open house weekend. Some of you may remember this remarkable house as one of the stars of the Grand Designs tv series. The extraordinary owners managed to create a house in the most unpromising site imaginable, with planning restrictions that would have lead most to think that there was no chance of being allowed to build anything. But not only did they gain permission, they built a house [...]
>We think we’ve got a problem. I’m in Ireland for the national social housing conference and the mood is sombre. The housing market in Ireland overheated to a quite phenomenal degree, and is now in full-scale retreat. The damage it has caused is what I have been asked here to talk about. Estimates vary, but even the most conservative say that 200,000 surplus flats have been built. Added to Ireland’s already sizeable empty homes problem it means there could be anything up to 400,000 homes standing empty. The quite extraordinary plan to be unveiled by the housing minister here [...]
>In yesterday’s post I mentioned some of the victims of the housing market downturn; tenants in buy-to-let properties. Many have found themselves homeless because their landlord has not kept up with mortgage repayments and had their property repossessed. If the cause were the tenant not paying their rent well fair enough perhaps, but all too often it’s no fault of the tenant at all. Most mortgage agreements contain clauses that require the landlord to seek the lenders permission to grant a tenancy. Many landlords don’t realise it’s there and others just ignore it. After all what lender is going to [...]
>Last week I reported on the truly staggering empty homes problem in the United States. The popular repost is – it could never happen here. Well possibly, but probably not for the reasons you might think
When the property market started falling last year there was much talk of what the graph would look like. Would it be a quick down and up “V”, a slower “U”, a down up down and up “W”, a down and stay down “L”, or my particular favourite analogy a down, stay down, then up “skip shape”.
A year in, with talk of property prices and [...]
>I apologise, the quality of these photographs is awful, but then so is the subject matter. This is the Ocean Estate in Stepney East London. In 2001 Tony Blair visited here to launch a £56million regeneration scheme that promised to transform one of Britain’s worst estates. Built between 1949 and 1975 it is made up of about 40 blocks and some 1700 flats all of which were due to come down to be replaced by a bright new mixed tenure community. But it wasn’t long before things started go wrong. By 2004 costs had spiralled, and several of the organisations [...]
>In the 1980s the Australian comedian Rod Quantock made a joke about fried mars bars on his TV show. The idea was he cooked things that sounded hideous and then actually ate them. Everybody agreed fried mars bars were just too gross to really eat and found it hilarious. Then something bizarre happened; fish and chip shops in Scotland actually started selling them. They caught on and now even Nigella cooks them.
Now something similar seems to be happening with property guardians in the USA. This radio station decided to do a spoof on April 1st. Actors living in [...]
I have been resisting the temptation to post anything about so-called posh squats up until now. They appear to be getting plenty of publicity without my help. Today, however, I have spoken to six journalists about them, including, if she will forgive me for bracketing her in such company, Vanessa Feltz. There is no doubt that this has become a big story.
It started in Brighton, then Upper Grovesnor Street, then Green Park and now Park Lane. Some of the poshest addresses in the UK have become squatted by what appears to be a new breed of lifestyle squatters. In total [...]
>I spent part of Christmas in my hometown of Ipswich. Being on holiday I was not on empty homes alert, but I could hardly miss this. When these waterfront homes were first planned a decade ago they were supposed to help turn the town from a working port into an executive service based economic hub. It hasn’t worked. The port has disappeared downstream, but the executives never really materialised. Like almost everywhere else in the UK the population of Ipswich is filled with ordinary people who need homes at ordinary prices. Instead what they’ve got is homes built for a [...]
>There’s always somebody who does well in a recession. This time 1980’s band the Primitives must be looking forward to the next royalty cheque. Their hit song “Crash” has been the backtrack to virtually every news report on the economy this week. Including this cruel but fair ode to TV presenter Kirsty Allsop who allegedly said that she would eat her hat if UK house prices dropped.
Many people seem to be under the impression that the government has launched a fund to enable councils and housing associations to buy up empty homes. Nice idea, but unfortunately untrue. Housing Minister Iain Wright, explained earlier in the week that what had happened was that the Housing Corporation had granted an extra £200 million to help housing associations buy property from developers. Amazingly despite this, two days later we find here the deputy Prime Minister. Standing in for Gordon Brown on Friday coming out with [...]
>Last month we reported that numbers of empty homes had gone up for the first time in 9 years. My prediction then was that this was the start of a trend rather than a blip. Some people disagreed. Well sorry to say told you so. But here is the latest information from 6months later released today in a PQNumber of empty homes in England October 2006: 748,159Number of empty homes in England October 2007: 762,635The anoraks might spot that both these figures are greater than the 693,000 we reported last month. The reason is these figures are taken directly from [...]