Danson's Forehead wrote:
Policies generally specify affordable housing, which includes social renting alongside things like sub-market rental and shared ownership. Within that, a certain proportion is social renting and a certain proportion is 'intermediate' housing. Agree that you do have to be careful about where the social rent element goes, and it won't be appropriate in all areas. In my area, for instance, there are policies to avoid social renting for single people being provided in the town centre, mainly because those people will often have particular issues that are triggered by a more high-pressure environment, higher noise levels, overcrowded public areas etc.
Developers do their very best to avoid groups coming into contact on a single site. It is not uncommon, for instance, for a block of flats to have two different entrances, one for the private residents and one for the unwashed proles.
The development I referred to has one block built to this model. A privately owned end which is well equipped and has it's own entry, under the same roof but entirely seperate is the segment operated by a housing association. Aside from some very obvious cosmetic touches it is basic but new and well built. All they have in common with the private residents is a party wall which abuts a fire escape stairwell. The private end is pretty much composed of Joe Public, regular people much like those living in the area as a whole. The housing association end is a surreal and improbable mix.
Somebody has seen fit to put a Somalian family with several kids right next to a woman who is clearly heavily into substances and is running a knocking shop-cum-crackhouse from her kitchen. These flats are on the ground floor but have a little Juliet balcony railing thing. An assortment of messed up, disordered and chaotic people can be spotted clambering in and out over this at any time of the day or night. The curtain was ripped down within days of her moving in but you get the feeling nobody minds for a second, or has even noticed it was ever there. On the other side of a paper thin wall are the Somali family. Mum and an assortment of girls covered head to toe, Dad in spotless white robes, an embroidered verse from the koran on the wall and not enough furniture for everyone to sit down at once, in a spotless room. I assume they haven't slept much since the day they moved in and at times it must be like living 18 inches from a nightclub as the partying, frequent fights and general unfolding drama is of epic proportions. They are effectively under seige, entirely powerless and in actual danger at times. It's that or become voluntarily homeless and see where that gets you.
I often enjoy incongruous juxtapostions but this one is just not doing it for me. Hopes of finding some middle ground evaporate at times. Uprooted, bewildered frightened people with particular views about child rearing and behaviour thrown in with people who don't know what a limit is and are pretty much long, long since past caring about anything, being irretreviably mired in a personal hell which they numb with whatever can be got hold of first.
Ostensibly, this is about community cohesion and you will see the local government bods cutting ribbons to declare the new utopia open for business. I suspect it is more of a holding cell for the kind of people the rest of society don't want next to them. The people who engineer it all live in the nice end of town or in a pretty village with good commuting links. I think many of them are well meaning but don't have a clue how insulated they are. It seems a very British phenomena, to try to deal with social ills through housing policy, whilst savaging social workers so badly nobody with talent will go near social work.
Professionals who encounter this messy side of society often become hardened and cynical to protect themselves from the horror of it all. Most of the rest get burnt-out and move on. Only the absurdists can stick at it. It is a Sisyphean endeavour. What is needed is something to destroy the boulder but instead we landscape the hill.