MIPIM UK & BNP Paribas: Property Speculators Are Carving Up Our Cities

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Mon Nov 14 23:44:09 GMT 2016





In a 
article, I outlined how the creation of a major 
asset bubble as exemplified by the rising cost of 
housing, is a deliberate government policy geared 
towards satisfying the asset diversification 
needs of the super rich rather than meeting the 
human need for homes for ordinary people to live 
in. In other words, the key motivating factor 
determining the Conservative governments housing 
policy, is not to end the housing crisis, but to 
bolster the investment opportunities of the rich which will make it worse.

To this end, the government under former PM David 
Cameron, almost nine months ago, 
its decision to demolish what remains of council 
homes and replace them with private housing. The 
and Planning Bill, which became law in May, is 
forcing families living in social housing and 
earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents 
nearly as high as those in the private sector. It 
is also compelling local authorities to sell 
‘high value’ housing, either by transferring 
public housing into private hands or giving the 
land it sits on to property developers. It is 
this combination of factors that explains the 
exponential growth in the construction of new 
tower blocks throughout London and other major cities.

Mipim UK Property Speculators Convention

A Tory housing policy focused on encouraging safe 
conditions for foreign investment funds and 
financial safe havens for billionaires, was the 
context for the 
UK Property Speculators Convention at Kensington 
Olympia in west London (19-21 October). Sir 
Edward Lister, chair of the government’s Homes 
and Communities Agency, 
“We’re involved in bringing parties together, 
marketing areas to attract the right kind of 
people to them
We brand local authorities, 
industries and areas to make them attractive to investors.”

“One of the things that attracts people to the UK 
is the relative 
John Slade, CEO of BNP Paribas Real Estate in the 
UK. “But popularity is more important to 
politicians than the future of our businesses.” 
“The government remains absolutely committed to 
ensure that the UK remains one of the most open 
places for investment,” 
said. But investment opportunities are undermined 
following any attempts by the government to increase supply.

Increasing supply would not only have a 
detrimental impact as far as large investors are 
concerned, but will also adversely affect the 
property investment portfolios of politicians. 
The 126 MPs who 
that they receive rental income from property, 
over 19 per cent of the house, the vast majority 
of whom are Conservatives. It’s in the joint 
interests of MPs and major property developers 
who lobby on their behalf to continue to push the 
market further into housing and to loosen planning controls.

  Social cleansing & privatisation of space

The impact of the lack of availability of 
affordable housing (combined with the bedroom 
tax) is twofold: It results in the effective 
social cleansing from major cities of the poor 
and those on middle incomes, and alters former 
public spaces into sanitised privatised ones. 
This process not only reduces the demographic mix 
of locales, but it also undermines social 
networks and local economies upon which local 
businesses depend for their livelihoods.

More broadly, the hollowing out of large parts of 
cities changes our perceptions of what 
constitutes private and public spaces and for 
what use the state intends to put them to. The 
February 13 edition of the Guardian 
on a London rally that protested against the 
corporate takeover of public streets and squares. 
Protesters cited London’s Canary Wharf, Olympic 
Park and the Broadgate development in the City as 
public places now governed by the rules of the corporations that own them.

The main issues that underpinned the London 
protests relate to how economic conditions are 
re-redefining many urban spaces as cultural 
centres of production. This is leading not to 
diversification but rather to a uniformity in 
which the high street, airport, shopping mall, 
museum and art gallery are increasingly speaking 
corporate culture rather than aesthetic pleasure.

Privatised public zones are appearing throughout 
Britain. They include Birmingham’s Brindley 
place, a significant canal-side development, and 
Princesshay in Exeter, 
as a “shopping destination featuring over 60 
shops set in a series of interconnecting open 
streets and squares”. Intrinsic to the 
privatisation agenda is the 
Space Protection Order (PSPO). Introduced by the 
coalition government, the PSPO is another form of 
social cleansing that is intended to criminalise 
those sleeping rough and to drive them from towns and city centres.

In other words, the formal ordering and 
disciplining of the poorest within urban spaces 
has had the affect of pushing them to the 
periphery, out of sight and out of mind of urban 
powers for whom responsibility is increasingly 
disavowed. In this way, spaces are shaped by 
economic forces which alter the landscapes of 
cities and re-package them under the banner ‘urban renaissance’.

Landscapes of power

Begun under New Labour, the ideology that 
underpins urban renaissance reflects a historical 
contradiction between planning in terms of social 
need and the process of competitive accumulation 
which is expressed in living and working urban 
spaces. This contradiction can be traced back to 
Town and Planning Act. Although urban planners 
have often been cast in an heroic role protecting 
the public from shoddy contractors and the 
short-term drive for profit by speculators, town 
planning has been skewed historically by deeply undemocratic practices.

Under Theresa May’s government these undemocratic 
practices are manifested in the kind of 
supply-side strategies for urban investment 
outlined above. Examples are regeneration 
programmes predicated on place promotion and 
development with culture, heritage and 
conspicuous consumption in mind. This vision, in 
other words, is paradoxically linked to the 
of progress as seen through the visual lens of economic power.

The expression of this power can be seen in terms 
of the redevelopment of waterside areas such as 
London’s Docklands. Although a regenerated or 
‘cleaned up’ Docklands maintains some of the 
visual references of its past, it nevertheless is 
a space that has lost almost all the social and 
political symbolism it once carried. It is a view 
of the past that has lost all power to express what that past meant.

In effect, developers in these circumstances 
remove all ‘unsuitable’ symbols of the past 
within the urban landscape and replace them with 
superficial inauthentic post-industrial elements. 
They succeed in this ‘Truman Show’ 
image-making by projecting the collective desires 
of the powerless into a corporate landscape of power.

Back at the convention

Meanwhile, back at the speculators convention at 
Olympia, Sir Edward Lister, chair of the 
government’s Homes and Communities Agency, who 
also happens to consult for real estate giant 
that last year was the best year for house 
building on record, yet last year 
40,000 new build registrations in the public and 
affordable sector were made. In the immediate 
post-war years (1945 to 1951) some 1.2 million 
new houses 
built. In 1968 a record 425,000 homes 
built, over 180,000 of which were local authority homes.

Mass council house building is the most effective 
way to house people but this undermines the 
profits of private firms. One way they do this is 
by holding onto land rather than developing it, 
so that prices are pushed upwards. As prices 
within the private rental market soar, more firms 
are trying to get their hands on the profits 
generated. According to 2015 
from Paragon PLC, the private rented sector (PRS) 
“is the second largest housing tenure, accounting 
for one-in-five homes in England alone, 
overtaking the social rented sector for the first 
time since the 1960s. This represents a 
significant increase in the number of households 
living in private rented homes.” The report 
the PRS has “more than doubled since 2001 and is 
now the second largest housing tenure
PRS is now 
home to 4.9 million households.”

Private – good, public – bad

The increase in private rented dwellings is 
largely the result of the fact that council 
housing has been gutted and the majority of 
people can’t afford to buy their own homes. But 
investors think that the change in numbers is 
down to the market reflecting what people want. 
Tory policy for housing focuses on getting people 
to buy houses. But this ideological drive is out 
of sync with the needs of capital. Investors need 
a political climate in which renting is 
encouraged. However, the Tories are ideologically 
tied to a house buying culture. This isn’t the 
case in countries such as Holland or Germany 
where government investment in social housing for rent is the norm.

According to the Department for Communities and 
Local Government 
report into social housing selloffs, of the 
21,992 dwellings sold over the past year in the 
UK, 12,557 were sold by local authorities and 
9,435 by housing associations. The local 
authorities figure is a 1 per cent increase on 
last year. The housing association figure 
represents an 18 per cent rise. Government funds 
for housing associations are drying up. In order 
to make money these associations are effectively 
forced to sell their properties to the private 
sector. The profits gained are then reinvested 
into their businesses reducing the overall 
availability of affordable housing stock.

Essentially, housing associations behave like 
private companies. This process is being 
accelerated as a result of the 
and Planning Act which forces local authorities 
to sell off council housing. The proceeds are 
then used to encourage housing associations to 
to Buy which will reduce the amount of affordable 
housing stock even further. As long as the Tories 
remain in power, the likelihood local communities 
will remain stable and socioeconomically diverse 
in the not too distant future is remote.


So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish 
participation in Bormann companies that when 
Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the 
Jewish and German communities of Buenos Aires. 
Jewish leaders informed the Israeli authorities 
in no uncertain terms that this must never happen 
again because a repetition would permanently 
rupture relations with the Germans of Latin 
America, as well as with the Bormann 
organization, and cut off the flow of Jewish 
money to Israel. It never happened again, and the 
pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an 
Argentinian safe haven, protected by the most 
efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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