Published on May 5th, 2013 |
by Ben Samuel
Image © michael ely
Britain Should Have Built Housing For Her Jilted Generaiton
Only recently have I been able to move out from my parents. The demand for housing means that I am paying over the odds for my rent, putting me in housing poverty. So when asked to write something for young people for this blog, I thought of readers who were about 15 years old 6 years ago when I was 21. What can they learn from my activism when I was 21? One example came to me in an archived email I had expressing my voice on housing.
I felt that my parents’ generation of baby-boomers wanted to have their housing cake and eat it. Look at my lush suburban street and you would think I have it easy but I don’t. The economic inequality between me and my parents is huge. On return from university my mother presented me with a foregone conclusion that new flats were to be built in my neighbourhood. The developers had written to residents about the plans but by the time I had my hands on the letter, a deadline had been missed and there had been a NIMBY (not in my back yard) campaign organised. The interests of residents are clearly stacked against affordable housing, which would lower their property value.
My arguments were the following: I was disengaged from local democracy (the planning consultation) because of having been away at university. I did not have the confidence that I would be heard.
Secondly, the planning application had some sweeteners in it which I wanted to take: Free bicycles for all residents, reducing parking and traffic problems on the estate. I brought ideas for implementing the free bicycles from my experience at university.
Thirdly, I was in the job market at the time and speculated that this was my opportunity to get a step on the job ladder. The reply was promising and open to my ideas.
Fourthly, whilst planners were happy to benefit from young people at home, they were hostile to the idea of young people moving in. Their lazy picture of students was sad because these could have injected new people into the local community which was dying of old age.
I think this little story of a young person engaging in local democracy is important because you have to know the history of your movement. People have been making similar demands but, as young people are transient, they lack the traction they need to win. It’s vital that, as a young person, I hand over that history, skill and social capital to younger young people so that the struggle for affordable housing can continue.
Back to the present day. I feel more empowered but also my parents’ baby-boomer generation are still as jilting as ever. My mother said to me as I left for an empowering occupation of the suburban home of the “unelected housing minister”, Lord Freud, “Watch out you might be a millionaire some day.” I said kill me first.
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