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Time to raise the rents.

Council Housing, The Good Old Days.....

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Property wars are no less bloody for council tenants

Jonathan Myerson

Wednesday January 25, 2006

The Guardian

Mayor Ken Livingstone says London needs 23,000 more housing units every year. That can only increase density in an inner-city patch such as Clapham. Over the past five years I have watched as every derelict corner has been annexed for new-build luxury flats. Developers have been making a killing. The electric motor factory that was going belly-up when I arrived in 1986, is now a botoxed mews with health club attached.

Naturally, property prices have followed the upward spiral. Meanwhile, council tenants find themselves in rent-protected havens, surrounded by neighbours who have sold several birthrights in order to afford a London foothold. But that doesn't always cut the mustard when things go wrong.

Clapham Manor Street is a living history of 19th century architecture. This long, exquisite street boasts every style of Victorian terrace house. Houses here go for at least £600,000, the bigger ones substantially more.

Greta has a council flat that comprises the top two floors of one of these properties. Norah has the ground floor and basement. The hall is where war breaks out, the pushchair is the casus belli.

Two days before Greta came to see me at surgery, Norah and Greta had ended up trading punches. This marks the climax of a low-intensity struggle involving music played at neuron-sapping levels, hall barricades and calls to the (always uninterested) police. They have tried calling the council's neighbour mediation service but the officers' limp attempts at brokering a peace have made little or no impact.

I look around Greta's flat - it's comfortable, homely, lovely. "Is this argument really just about parking a pushchair in the hall?" I ask Greta. "It is," says Greta. "But then she started. I need a transfer ... "

I stop her there. I can't bear to hear it again. I tell her she is sitting on a goldmine. She is living in two-floor flat that would cost over £1,500 a month to rent in the real world. Make peace, you can't throw this away. That was six months ago and I haven't heard from her since. Either she's taken my words to heart or one of them is dead.

Of course, some tenants are acutely aware of their property's value. Bob Sands rather likes his three-floor council flat. He knows he is on to a good thing. Better still, after the last tenants of the basement flat shipped out in 2001, he's had peace, quiet and the whole garden to himself, his wife and two children.

But then the council finally renovated the basement, and Nathan and Lucy moved in. To begin with, it was just their garlic. Then it was everything. He sawed off half of their garden trellis. He sawed through the security bars in front of the basement window. Then he kicked off at the tradesmen sent to replace them. Anything in the communal passageway was likely to end up in bits.

So Nathan suggested dividing the garden in half - nothing permanent, nothing the council need know about. Sands agreed and then ratted on them to the council. Meanwhile Lucy miscarried. Over the years, Sands has racked up more than 20 different police computer aided despatch numbers for each time they've been called.

By now you're wondering why the mediation service hasn't done anything. It has: it's given Nathan and Lucy diary sheets to complete and it's been sent photos and recordings of his abuse. But every time progress is about to be made, the officer changes job and/or the service loses the paperwork. It has invited Sands to mediation sessions but when he doesn't show, it shrugs. An antisocial behaviour order was tabled but nothing more happened. Lucy finally got through to the council officer in charge. His first response was: "How did you get my number?"

Lucy and Nathan are moving out next week. Lucy's pregnant again and they've secured a housing association shared ownership. The Sands family has the run of the place again. And thanks to Lambeth housing, another flat is void.

· Names have been changed. Jonathan Myerson writes here every month on his experiences as a Labour councillor in Lambeth, south London.

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To buy our rented house valued at £215,000 would require a total repayment of £333,000 @ 4.5% over 20 years.

333,000 / (20*12) = 1387.50 pcm,

our rent is 440 pcm,

our landlord has no mortgage, can you tell?

Imagine what kind of feckwit starts up in business without even checking out the competition!

People like TTRTR who own a handful of properties will be the first to get locked up when times get tough.

He thinks he can compete with Landlords who own 30-100 properties.

By operating in London TTRTR has done the property equivalent of setting up a greengrocers next to Tesco’s.

He has borrowed money to do this, and believes if his overheads go up he can simply charge more!

Oh dear.

Surely he can see why these bigger fish have larger portfolios? Is it because they bought houses when houses were cheap?

Do they sit out the boom whilst quietly amassing capital? Waiting for another time to buy low?

What is your business plan TTRTR? Buy every large property you find as soon as you can afford one?

MMWaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaaaa How long will you last? Precisely one cycle?

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Is his point that if you are a tenant with nightmare neighbours you can move, but if you own the place you are a bit screwed?


For a moment I thought it might be something like...

... See, this proves all council tenants are scum, and Maggie Thatcher was a genius, cos she got rid of all the nasty council tenant scum and gave them their houses on the cheap so they could buy them, become respectable BTLers and rent them out to the next generation of tenant scum who are all only spending 5% of their income on their rent cos the British economy is doing so well that everyone is travelling around by Ryan Air and can afford for me to put their rents up by whatever I want, unless the british economy is doing badly, in which case interest rates will drop to 0% and I'll be richer than you by infinity percent, heads I win tails you lose....

...But then I thought, Nah.

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I think his point can be succinctly summarised thus:

1) rents are increasing, will continue to increase, and will never stop increasing

2) see above

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What a nightmare council housing is. A trap for people incapable of dealing with the real world.

Ah, I thought the point was that all it took was one bad apple living in any one neighbourhood to make the place virtually unsellable/unrentable.

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