Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So in my bedroom from those ugly new houses

Those samey city-living apartments are sprawling everywhere.

During my time in London I remember asking the clichè question: how can people afford it?

Have a walk around. It makes you wonder who's ever gonna be able to repay those mortgages in full before they snuff it. Which explains why adults past 35 still rent and share as if perma-studentdom was to last forever. Or how about those city-living apartments that are sprawling everywhere, in each single town centre, from Cardiff to Birmingham, from Sheffield to Brighton. Monstrosities closer to hives than they are to human dwellings.

Until recently the consensus was that never again the fiasco of post-war social housing was to be repeated. Those high-rise blocks -the script reads out- had been the hard way of learning how you don’t do urban planning. Ugly, alienating, anonymous. But at least the post-war social housing drive was a positive one. It was the government taking on board the task of allowing everybody modern and affordable living in some shape or form. The UK had taken on the noble task of mammoth slum-clearance. And modernist post-war housing was seen as the quickest, most affordable and most effective solution.

But now? What’s all this? At the turn of the 21st century you cannot believe the rate at which humongous apartment blocks are mushrooming throughout the UK. Housing it may be, but this time it’s no social we’re talking about. No cheap, affordable, “homes for heroes”. They are all invariably high-rent, glossy, “city-living”, “south-side”, “west-side”, “urban- splash” dens. Not even that glossy, to tell you the truth. But certainly re-mortageable, if you don't fancy repossession.

I’m sitting outside a bar in Hurst Street, on a rare April sunny afternoon, sipping rose wine, what else. The building opposite us must have been assembled in less than five minutes. Lego for giants. For a second I express bewilderment. I didn’t know the new A&E department was being built in Hurst Street. Not quite.

A pink banner sheds some light “City Living- Show Room- Southside”. “Enjoy life at the heart of the business district”. You really should take a look at the building. Had it been a guessing game, chances are the A&E speculation would have been followed by a) school, b) prison, c) police HQ. Scratch beneath the surface of extortionate prices and…but that's another story.

No comments: