When Housing Fails

Currently (in 2016) rarely a day goes by without the continued coverage of the U.K. housing crisis and the ongoing failure of politics to address the problem. As the ongoing boom continues essentially unabated from the early 1990s, the chronic lack of housing combined with regressive property taxation has resulted in a systematic failure to provide accommodation where and when required. In this, the ineffective nature of capitalist resource distribution sees it natural course run. The continued profitability of low risk, high profit mortgage backed products is supported through both the reduction in supply and the granting of few, low risk high value, profitable mortgages.

Perhaps the most significant feature that has allowed the situation to continue has been central government policy which has supported this. Essentially the levers of government have been used to ensure an evening increasing property wealth regardless of the potential dangers. However this has been done with the complicity of the electorate which has elected governments to deliver prosperity built upon rising asset prices and debt accessed purchasing wealth combined with low interest rates and controlled inflation.

The situation perhaps is this, the housing supply cannot be allowed to increase significantly through either building or reuse as to do so will deflate prices. This risk placing government backed debit within negative equity and also many house holds within negativity equity.

This risk of a devaluation is enhanced as property ownership is concentrated and risks is more focused. If such a property devaluation occurred a significant contagion of rapid selling buy to let property may accelerate any devaluation significantly.

However while the danger and risk of a devaluation are massive it has to be considered in the light of the ongoing housing crisis. There is a clear lack of cheap, high quality housing, the only course of action is to increase supply. Yes, there is a risk that an increase in supply will result in devaluation of property but the alternative is to increase homelessness and that is in my opinion unacceptable.

A while ago I made a throw away reply to a tweet.

On Sunday afternoon I was interested to see a follow up post to the original tweet on theCultureVulture.

I felt inclined to respond.

The article ponders if eventually food banks will cease to exist due to a decision by supermarkets to use of out of date food as the ultimate loss leader for supermarket food sales. Rather than donate non saleable food, the food would be available for free, direct from the supermarket to anyone.

While the idea offers significant beneficial efficiencies by identifying and potential removing costs I would contend that it fails to deal with the most significant, perhaps fundamental, construct of the food market.

Some must starve so others will pay.

This core construct of the current global food systems informs its operation. In the proposed system described in the article, the smartest consumer response is to stop purchasing food and wait for it to be free. Undeniably many consumers may act in sub optimal way, either purchasing in respect to ‘tiers of status’ or perhaps just because their hungry!

Of course the article contends it is unlikely that a complete meal will be available through only the free food and that the free food will actual function as a loss leader. I suspect this would work and would perhaps even offer the ability to direct sales through correctly straggered distribution. Once can imagine a situation were a significant supply of free sausages is partnered with a promotion on, for purchase, Yorkshire puddings and mash.

However, such a change in distribution is likely to refocus suppliers as well. Under the current model over supply does not canabalise future sales. However, under the proposed model it would. (I think it is safe to assume products would only be purchased once the free supply is exhausted.) Consequently, I suspect that some manufactures would seek to reduce the supply of goods rather than risk this canablisiation effect. This could lead to a reduction in overall supply and a corresponding reduction in food waste (good) but at the cost of a reduce supply to food banks (bad).

Evidence of this kind of effect is perhaps forthcomming in other aspects of our present economy. One of the effects of income inequality is the creation of a small number of hyper-able consumers, rather than the broader base consumer market of the recent past.

There is significant value in imagining productivity ways to cut down on food waste. Either by increasing the efficiency of food use and/or facilitating access to adequate food for all. I fear that placing it on the good will of retailers is unlikely to work as there primary responsibility is still to make profit, not feed people.

The urgency of such discussions has perhaps never been greater. The possible near future of post work may create a majority who can’t pay who, under the present system, should starve. A future of mass starvation is not acceptable to me.

The BBC had an article today regarding the a proposed change to the highway code requiring vehicles to give way to the left at junctions. The proposal was presented with the idea of safeguarding roads for cyclists and pedestrians as well as other road users. While if followed (and enforced) such a proposal would perhaps make the road safer in reality it is unlikely to be followed and will make the road more dangerous especially for cyclists.

Any public message that encourages cyclist to use the inside line along vehicles when approaching any junction is one that encourages cyclist to places themselves in danger. Remember the indicator only offers proof that a light bulb works, nothing else. Riding up the inside of taxis, busses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles is always a very bad idea. As cyclists we have to take responsibility for our own safety but that does not mean that we can’t ask government to help us.

I would propose that rather than a rule regarding left turns, the highway code is amended to make it illegal to overtake any moving road user within a 20 or a 30 zone. Such a rule is easy to explain, obvious when violated, can be imposed by a minority of road users and makes the road safer for all users. I suspect it also will have limited negative impact on most journeys due to congestion and traffic lights. Finally it requires very little expenditure as signage is already in place (the speed limit signs).

The proposal of no over taking in 20 and 30 zones does very little for pedestrians users crossing roads unaided who undeniably would benefit from further protection.

A few weeks ago Casey Neistat, upload a YouTube video indicating his decision to vote for a particular presidential candidate in the upcoming american presidential election. As well as endorsing a candidate he also challenged other YouTubers to endorse a candidate as well.

This challenge was met with a wide variety or response from those who made simple endorsement videos, to others who suggested that calling out other YouTubers in such a manor was a TOS violation as it incited cyber bullying. Some however questioned the reason why they should have the right to tell there viewers who to vote and questioned the value of doing so.

While celebrity endorsement is not in anyway a new feature of elections, YouTubers often lacking legal and staffing support are perhaps poorly equipped to offer an informed endorsement. This practical reality combined with the relativism of private truth and the current post truth, political discourse makes an interjection difficult.

However, engagement in politics is a crucial role of the citizen (this is the reason I tend to indicate my voting intentions online here) and the lack of engagement of any part of the electorate is inherently problematic. Therefore, I think Casey Neistat interjection should be welcome and his challenge to others, to consider there political position is worthwhile.

A New Phone The Nokia 215

Back in 2015 I gave up on smart phones blog here. I ended up getting a second hand Nokia E71 which has been awesome(I knew it would be I had an E61). However the E71 battery life (it was an original battery) slipped to less than a day so I thought it was time to get a new phone.

I had been using the E71 in combination with an iPod touch which I intend to continue doing. After a little investigation I ended up going for a Nokia 215.

I have used it for over a month now so the summary review would be, very long battery life, very good reception, speaker phone could be louder and the Facebook Messenger implementation is usable but not quick. The built in Twitter app work well. A slight issue is the address book which really struggled with contact importing, especially with contacts with more than one telephone number.

In summary if you want a phone to be a phone and occasionally a little more than the Nokia 215 is a great choice.