Tuesday, 07 August 2012

Antisocial societies cause antisocial behaviour There's been a surprising amount of recent commentary on the disturbances that took place in England a year ago. The fact that the social system is taking so long to heal illustrates clearly how sick it is. Meanwhile the government bumbles on, not just generating inequality as fast as it can but also celebrating it. Witness the silly (and disproven) claims that state education does not produce Olympic winners because those on what are called 'the left' (apparently that term is regarded by people with expensive educations as a way of distinguishing something that is publicly funded) do not approve of competition. Reflecting on this tradition of misrepresentation I draw your attention to the way the rich and powerful historically commandeered phrases like 'fair play' while resolutely refusing to distinguish between fair and unfair competition. It's an imperialist thing, you have to invade and conquer a few countries over the centuries to know how to do it convincingly. As if to prove the point about the disturbances, no sooner do Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson publish a straightforward article in Comment is Free than the trolls plunge in. If you have the stomach, try reading the first dozen or so responses. If you have the abs of an Olympian (irrespective of education) try going deeper. About a year ago I suggested that those who were confounding explanation and excuse were best ignored until they’ve worked it out. It seems to be taking a while. Blaming youthful criminality and inadequate parenting doesn't get us very far. What's socially significant and really worthy of attention is the apparently high proportion of people who see that as the end of debate, 'pure and simple'. For these people, there is no need to ask, or no point in seeking to understand, why levels of criminality and perceptions of poor parenting are so high in this country. In taking that stance, they appear to be at the same time condoning inequality and ignoring the evidence of its destructive effects. How many of them are climate change sceptics, I wonder?
Are London households being priced out of affordable homes? Guest post by Kate Kennett. Kate writes for Affinity Sutton, a housing association that provides affordable homes through schemes such as part buy part rent mortgages. New figures from Shelter reveal worrying statistics that price families out of entering the property market in London. For most households the disparity between take home wage and cost of living is preventing them from saving up the equity to purchase a home, for others it’s the increased interests from overseas buyers pushing up the price. These new figures revealed that for households to be comfortably renting a two bedroom home the total household income, before tax, needs to be £52,000. However the reality is that the average household takes home less than £35,000 in London. Furthermore in eight London boroughs, Shelter found that households would need to earn on average more than £60,000 before tax; this includes the boroughs of Islington and Tower Hamlets. Nearly one in four families in London is now in private rental accommodation - a 70 per cent increase in private renting in the capital over the last two years, pushing up rental costs due to demand. This demand of private rental properties has helped inflate the price of rent in 2011 by 7 per cent, almost double the rate of inflation of the London average wage. The spike in private renting is driven by the lack of affordable home ownership in London as well as overseas buyer interest and the long council waiting list for rented accommodation forcing more people to rent private properties, even if that rent is well above the affordable rent rate. This leaves many households at risk, with little money left over for other essentials such as food and clothing. Overall Great Britain has some of the highest costs of housing in the EU, the third highest housing cost overburden rate with one in 6 people overburdened by living costs associated with the home. Whilst traditional avenues of home ownership are on the decline, housing association projects such as a shared ownership scheme or part buy part rent mortgages are playing a more significant role in preventing families being priced out of England’s capital. The G15, the largest group of independent housing associations in London, are hoping to ease this burden on families by providing around six in 10 of the new affordable homes in London over the next four years, helping to ease the demand on the private rental market. Some of the houses will be available for shared ownership schemes, whereby 25 per cent to 75 per cent of the property is available to purchase at market value and a subsidised rent on the remaining share of the property until the property is bought outright. A part buy part rent mortgage is typically a 5 per cent deposit on the share of property bought. Part buy part rent mortgage schemes help families build up the equity to outright own the property they are renting.

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