A slightly less simple plan.

So, Create Streets. Inside Housing has the story, pointing out that the thing campaigning for knocking down high-rise social housing in south London is basically a group of Tories. But there’s a bit more, or less, to it than that.

Their wesbite won’t tell you whether they are a company, a charity, a lobby, or just a bunch-of-guys who all happen to have a substantial vested interest in knocking stuff down and building new stuff. Neither will their twitter feed, however much I shout at it, although it’s doing some frantic linkwhoring and general pud-knocking (224 tweets since 13th of December).

Like so many things, it seems to be Policy Exchange’s fault, which suggests that PX now has a new role as a constructor-class for wanktanks:


But anyway. From their wesbite:

Heneage Stevenson worked for Schroder Salomon before becoming a partner at Bee Bee Developments, specialising in urban regeneration. He now runs his own property business. He has lived in South London for most of his life.

So, you’re a property developer and you just happen to feel south London could do with a massive urban regeneration programme? How could it happen? Like this. Here’s Bee Bee Developments, boasting about their massive development scheme from 2006, Players Square, in Dublin. O RLY. Property developer from 2006 Dublin? What could possibly go wrong with that?

Players Square, the property company proposing an alternative site for the national children’s hospital, owes €77m to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) and has not made any loan repayments for two years. The company has written down the value of its land in central Dublin from €82m to €10m — an 88% haircut. The land, adjacent to the Coombe hospital off the the South Circular Road in Dublin, had permission for a development of almost 1m sq ft during the property bubble.

The project was to have included 754 apartments and townhouses, a new school, leisure centre, medical centre, offices and shops. No development has taken place, and Nama took over the Players Square loans from AIB in 2010. The company recorded a €74m loss in 2010 after writing down the value of its site, which left it in breach of its loan covenants…

This Irish Times story suggests that what’s going on here is that the Players Square developers are now trying to wriggle out of the deal by hawking the site to the Irish taxpayer, specifically to put the children’s hospital there. So, the debts ended up on NAMA’s books, they’ve had two years’ loan forbearance off the state, and now they’re suggesting that the public fork out and buy the site off them. Cute, in the Irish sense of the word.

Interestingly, back in the boom years, friend Heneage didn’t mind tall buildings so much; Players Square was meant to be 8-10 stories. That’s not Centrepoint but it ain’t terraced cottages either.

Moving on from Heneage, here’s his mate Nicholas Boys Smith* at Tory Kennel, arguing for doing something to housing benefit, with a canny bit of racism (polygamists? *dogwhistle*) thrown in.

Does anyone else see a plan taking shape? One thing we know about the October 2013 London housing bomb is that it’s going to hit private landlords and also housing associations like a hammer. The problem is voids; not the blog, or the howling emptiness of outer space, but just the fact that someone who has a fixed cost of capital and no tenants has a serious problem.

So, the Create Streets lot pile in to the fire sale, decant everyone to somewhere else, bulldoze everything, and create nice Poundbury-compliant streets for a far smaller number of far richer people. Profit!, as the Underpants Gnomes would say.

Profit for who? Here’s friend of the blog and Yorkshireman, Jones the tax:


*Yes, that’s the guy who was Peter Lilley’s bag-carrier.

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