Sunday, March 29, 2009

Council Speak

'If only 46% of the homes at the development are 'affordable', what's the point of building the others?' I'd been dying to ask that question for a while, and now was my chance.

We were in Lewisham Shopping Centre, viewing screens with 'architects' impressions' of the new Loampit Vale development - houses, shops and a leisure centre.

I was laughing at R's suggestion that the non-affordable homes were meant for squatters, when the developer's head appeared from behind a partition. I listened while a young woman told him it was a 'crap scheme' because the new swimming pool would be smaller than the one it replaces. Then I put the question.

'No, no! ' He laughed at my literal-mindedness and poor grasp of council-speak. 'Affordable' doesn't mean that. It's the recognised term for 'social housing''.

'Social housing. Do you mean council houses?'

He winced again at my obsolete terminology. 'Housing Associations.'

'But how will the poorer people be separated from the people in the 'unaffordable' houses? Will there be fences, or will they be on different side of the street?'

'Oh, no, madam. The properities will look the same. We call it 'Blind Tenure'.

Blind tenure. I could hardly believe it. It's worse than 'affordable housing'. 'Blind' must mean 'barely noticeable difference in wealth' - even if some are commuting to banks on Canary Wharf via the nearby DLR, and some (46%) are a lot less well off, perhaps unemployed.

I suppose it's an improvement on the current separation of private and council estates. I wonder if they are still called that. New terms in the brochure are : 'pocket park'.'grey water recycling' and PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level)

I've thought how to defuse social tensions , too. With BMWs parked next to clapped out old bangers in the driveways, they could call it 'Vehicular Variation'. Or even 'Blind Driving'.

Blind tenure, etc:


Katy said...

Isn't "affordable housing" a wonderful euphamistic piece of jargon? Whenever I hear it (and I've worked for 2 housing assocs now) it just makes me want to ask if the rest is, presumably, unaffordable...

Sheila Cornelius said...

It's bad enough coming across these nonsense words by accident - it must be awful to have to work with them. I first met 'affordable' in connection with houses built on the Greenwich Peninsula when the Dome was constructed. That was when the selling off council-owned land to private developers really started, I think.