Interesting conversations on the phone today with my sister in Sheffield and then my brother-in-law in Glasgow. There they were throwing money at my little sister just over a year ago; “… and there is another 25,000 pounds for you to play with”. What I am talking about, of course, are the building societies and banks in “Blighty” and now there she is today, sitting on all of this negative equity and in a house she cannot pay for. Up in Glasgow big sister is doing a bit better because they have already bought their house. So, there was brother-in-law going back to “Mrs T” and how she gave everybody the chance to buy their house and why should you pay rent for the whole of your life when you can buy the place? Maybe, we should turn the clock back and do a wee bit of reminiscing in order to answer that question.
After the war, in places like Glasgow, where I grew up, the Labour government built great big housing estates with bathrooms and inside toilets in them and what we had was all of these people living in their wee flats and wee houses and paying rent to the “council”. Now, some of the housing estates were, to put it mildly, a wee bit rough and some were a bit better and some were much better but everyone, more or less, had a wee house or a wee flat with a bathroom and a toilet and they all, more or less, stayed put because nobody got evicted for not paying the rent and why would they get evicted? If they couldn’t pay their rent, the Department of Health and Social Security would pay it for them and the “council” wouldn’t want to evict them anyway, because if they did, they would have to re-house them and then along came Mrs Thatcher and she gave everyone the chance to buy their wee house or wee flat.
Now, nobody in their right mind was going to buy a flat in places like Drumchapel, Easterhouse and Castlemilk and they were all going to try and buy their little house or flat in places like Knightswood and Cardonald and that is what happened and all of these nice little affordable places for poor people disappeared from the market and all of a sudden, overnight, all the wee red doors were painted green and purple and orange and red (repainted) and white and black and the people in the wee houses with the green and purple and orange and red (repainted) and white and black doors said things like, “why should I pay rent for the whole of my life, when I can own my place.” A new age was being ushered in, an age of choice, an age of a new propertied “class”, an age of Starbucks and Costa Coffee, Apple and Armani.
All of a sudden money was being thrown at all of these people who had grown up in a world where money was there to be spent and they spent, spent, spent on their Starbucks and Costa Coffee, Apple and Armani courtesy of free trade and the people working in the fields and factories in the third world for peanuts and the best thing was that they, that is them back in “Blighty”, all owned their little houses or so they thought and ….. well, we know the rest of the story. However, there are a some questions I would like to ask; firstly, what is wrong with paying a rent until you die and does dying with a wee house or flat under your belt make dying easier? Secondly, with all the reposessions and even the occassional foreclosure around, what was wrong with a system where nobody ever got evicted? Alright, some of the wee houses were a wee bit run down and the wee houses were all the same colour with the same sort of windows and same sort of doors. Still, methinks that when they were all painting their little doors green and purple and orange and red (repainted) and white and black and putting in their double glazing and building their extensions and, and, …… they were all building their castles in the air. My wee sister in Sheffield has come back to earth with a bump and she is thinking of moving into rented accomodation, my big sister in Glasgow will stay put and maybe one of her son’s will get the wee house when it is time for her to go. Will she go happier for that though and would it have not been better to have that wee house rented out to a needy wee family that knew they weren’t going to be evicted? Think about it!
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