The Daily Reckoning UK

The Tower That Symbolises Modern-Day Britain

Pieter Cranenbroek

by

Posted 26th May 2016

There’s a tower in Vauxhall overlooking London, and mocking it.

The tower in question – St George Wharf Tower – is a perfect example of how the country has been run for years, under different governments.

The ‘Tower for the toffs’, as it’s been referred to, is a ghost tower. It’s London’s tallest residential building yet no one’s ever there to admire the view.

That’s because many of these flats are held through secretive offshore firms. Rich, foreign owners consider the tower an investment, not a home.

It’s basically a place built for the ultra-rich so they have something to spend their money on.

Now I might’ve shrugged that off if it weren’t for the fact that Britain’s housing policy has more pressing matters to attend to.

Given that the country’s housing crisis has dragged on for decades, providing the rich with even more real estate in already unaffordable central London is hardly a priority.

St George Wharf Tower is a poignant reminder that Britain’s society is made up of two circles that at no point seem to overlap.

There’s a Britain for the elite and there’s a Britain for everyone else.

Hand in glove

Politicians like to pretend they are just like the rest of us. They claim to have the same interests and care about the same things.

It’s why David Cameron tries to convince people he’s an avid Aston Villa fan even if he does confuse ‘his team’ with West Ham on occasion.

Such a shame then that all this ‘we’re the party for working people’ talk doesn’t translate into policies that help those people.

Britain’s housing crisis ultimately boils down to this: there aren’t enough affordable homes.

Rising house prices have created a Generation Rent – people who are unlikely to afford their own home before they’re in their forties.

Young people all over the country looking to buy a home often find supply is scarce.

Help to buy, the government scheme introduced to help first time buyers by means of lower deposits, is a nice idea. But as long as there’s a lack in supply the policy won’t be very effective.

PwC predicts that only a quarter of England’s 20-39 year olds will live in their own home by 2025.

London is set to become a city of renters in ten years’ time. More and more people are being pushed out of the capital because it’s becoming unaffordable to buy or even rent a place in the city centre.

What you want, then, is for politicians to increase the supply of inexpensive property.

What politicians have been doing, however, is the exact opposite.

Government schemes like Right to buy and Buy-to-let have only served to decrease the supply of affordable housing. The average British home will soon cost £360,000 due to a supply deficit.

Landlord MPs are keeping supply tight because high rents benefit them. They even voted against making properties fit for human habitation, because that’s just a pain.

And the government’s failure to provide enough social housing means families have to pay a bedroom tax even if there are no smaller homes available to relocate to.

Meanwhile bricks and mortar are wasted on ghost buildings that people have no intention of living in.

To say politicians are out of touch with the real world is putting it mildly. More accurate would be to say that politicians and the elite are hand in glove.

It always pains me to read immigration being blamed for the housing crisis (and pretty much anything else lately).

I think that’s incredibly lazy. While the increasing number of immigrants is a contributing factor, it is not the root of the problem.

As Jonn Elledge at CityMetric frequently puts it, “we need to build more bloody houses.”

Different governments have failed to tackle the housing problem. Anger should be directed at the people responsible. The ghost-tower-approval committee.

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