Low cost pragmatic storage solutions for the surplus population

Low cost pragmatic storage solutions for the surplus population

A follow-up to my blog on the 'housing shortage', originally posted as an overly-long facebook status and reposted here now that the scheme to house people in shipping containers has been approved.

I've been arguing with a few Green Party supporters over the plan to store surplus poor people in shipping containers. My point is there's a massive surplus of houses (in Brighton, 4,000 empties, 867 of which are long-term, vs 135 homeless families), the scarcity is artificial. The response is that these are privately owned, and therefore sacrosanct, and it's not the Greens fault social housing has been decimated. Furthermore, if you oppose storing people in shipping containers, you objectively support homelessness. There is no alternative!

There's a slightly bigger issue here of the financialisation of the housing stock. According to the Novara on Thatcher, housing equity withdrawal was equal to 105% of GDP growth 1979-1990. The housing bubble continued to form the basis of consumer spending throughout the New Labour years - up until the financial crisis in 2008. Homeowners (private individuals and buy-to-let scumbags) are pretty highly geared (I'd need to look into the figures), so any measures which devalue the housing stock by increasing supply (the perennial lefty cry to build more housing, or punitive taxes on empty homes), decrease demand (non-market provision e.g. state or widespread squatting), or cap rents, would devalue the security of the mortgage loan book. Remember what happened with just the sub-prime mortgage bubble going pop?

So while the grinning 'pragmatic' imbeciles who support containerising the poor have little understanding of the geneology of their pragmatism, there is a worrying logic to it: shipping containers don't really affect the property market because they're not a substitutable good (barely anybody wants to live in them). Furthermore, they're highly mobile, so they can be parked in currently idle urban real estate while development is on hold, then literally picked up and moved when when developers want the land back. Insta-gentrification.

So the problem is not a physical shortage of housing, but of housing as capital (highly financialised, requiring returns on investment, maintaining historically off the charts house price to income ratios, risk of renewed financial collapse if the bubble bursts...). And the containerisation 'solution' is congruent with this - it seeks to utilise idle capital (urban real estate) without destabilising the property bubble/buy-to-let/financial nexus which has sustained economic growth for the past 30-40 years. However - this bubble has also reached its limit, as people can't get on the property ladder, let alone continually remortgage against rising property prices to fuel consumption.

Karl Marx wrote:
At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.

Posted By

Joseph Kay
May 17 2013 12:18

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  • The problem is not a physical shortage of housing, but of housing as capital (highly financialised, requiring returns on investment, maintaining historically off the charts house price to income ratios, risk of renewed financial collapse if the bubble bursts...)

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Comments

Harrison
May 29 2013 18:20

this blog post title made me think dundee united had taken up a spam career

fingers malone
May 29 2013 16:36

What does this mean, "Homeowners are pretty highly geared" ?

Joseph Kay
May 29 2013 17:38

High debt:equity ratios, i.e. big mortgages relative to property values.

Harrison
May 29 2013 18:16

that was meant to read, 'blog post title'! the actual blog post i thought interesting

Harrison
May 29 2013 23:13

(acidental double post)

Joseph Kay
May 29 2013 19:16

It's more of a sketch of an analysis than an actual analysis with references etc... there were some good comments on the facebook post, and hopefully something more substantial will be written up (though not necessarily by me).

Shorty
May 29 2013 20:03

Interesting blog post, looking forward to you expanding upon it. I guess you've listened to this episode of novara.

http://novaramedia.com/2013/05/the-housing-crisis/

One other interesting line to follow is the way in which containers as housng are being pushed as "sustainable" housing. Thin end of the wedge?

communal_pie
Jul 5 2013 01:26

The two ways I look at it are:

Ideally - what we want - which your blog post refers to

And more scary and realistic solutions, which are unnerving when one is talking about their own housing situation (espesh if you are actually homeless - some people cope with this better than others).

So far my list has been this (in no real order)

Go to council - seek legal aid for the 3rd 3rd of cases which are upheld - try housing associations - try private landlords who will get you in there 'quick' avoiding some or all of the rent in advance/deposit (this is of course very risky anyway)/or save up the rent in advance and/or deposit and get a place you can afford/can get HB/LHA for -

other more risky slightly creative solutions involved:

barges
office space turned into a secret sleeping area (reported in the guardian and independent - office rents can be really cheap)
abandoned underground complexes
squatting
staying in the storage space in council estates using FB keys

That's all I can think of for now, but there were more.

Of course there is no real housing shortage a all, involving the current stock of decent quality or easily fixable flats, houses and so forth. But if you added the better creative ideas in, especially if you included very reasonable office space which is often open-plan and therefore easy to renovate into being a flat you'd have an unlimited supply of housing around the whole world in no time at all, but keep it a secret...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/3359038/How-to-live-in-London-for-a-...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/jan/10/property-guardian-schemes

http://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/office-living-the-n...

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732478950457838237265958974...

etc

S. Artesian
Jul 5 2013 03:21

What do you mean exactly by "surplus population"? What population is surplus? The Malthusian implications of even accepting such a term to describe people are reactionary.

Ablokeimet
Jul 5 2013 04:49
S. Artesian wrote:
What do you mean exactly by "surplus population"? What population is surplus? The Malthusian implications of even accepting such a term to describe people are reactionary.

Given the content of the post as a whole, it should be fairly clear the term was used as a way of describing the attitude of the capitalist class to the poor and therefore explaining the contempt embodied in the idea of putting them in shipping containers.

Mike S.
Oct 14 2013 07:12

It would be better if this surplus population could live in storage containers underground so it wouldn't be an eyesore and lower property values in the surrounding area. What's needed is a good war. Kick start profits and thin down the surplus human baggage. The reserve army of underground vagabonds also need to be hidden so it's easier to externalize the market mechanisms that put them there (although we all know they're most lazy drug addicted gamblers).

Ugh. Ya. Here in the US all of the investors are buying up homes in bundles of thousands at a time and the banks aren't really selling to private families or small investors. The future of America is going to be various giant investment firms such as Blackstone Group playing landlord to millions of people.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-09/blackstone-steps-up-home-buying...

Someone should contact Blackstone Group to inquire about investing in underground storage container homes. I put together a business plan and if they're not interested I can come up with some venture capital from other sources. Thanks for the idea Joseph.

S. Artesian
Oct 14 2013 21:15
Mike S. wrote:
It would be better if this surplus population could live in storage containers underground so it wouldn't be an eyesore and lower property values in the surrounding area. What's needed is a good war. Kick start profits and thin down the surplus human baggage. The reserve army of underground vagabonds also need to be hidden so it's easier to externalize the market mechanisms that put them there (although we all know they're most lazy drug addicted gamblers).

Ugh. Ya. Here in the US all of the investors are buying up homes in bundles of thousands at a time and the banks aren't really selling to private families or small investors. The future of America is going to be various giant investment firms such as Blackstone Group playing landlord to millions of people.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-09/blackstone-steps-up-home-buying...

Someone should contact Blackstone Group to inquire about investing in underground storage container homes. I put together a business plan and if they're not interested I can come up with some venture capital from other sources. Thanks for the idea Joseph.

This only makes sense if mortgages can be made on the underground containers; if the Feds can be persuaded to guarantee the mortgages; and then the mortgages can be "tranched" into different classes of asset backed securities on which credit default options can be contracted between counterparties.

Get in the game, son!