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The Vote: Social housing - in your back yard?

Tower block Mere Bank stands almost empty because the council says there's enough social housing around Sefton Park. That right?

Published on January 21st 2010.


The Vote: Social housing - in your back yard?
Yes: - 37%
No: - 63%

AN Englishman’s Home is his castle. Except when the keeper of the moat is a private landlord.

The remaining stock of council housing concentrated in undesirable areas with little employment opportunity, further isolating and stigmatising their occupiers

Recently tenants in one city centre block of flats were shocked to receive a letter saying their buy-to-let landlord had not been paying his mortgage. The money-lender was going to court to seek possession of the flats. The fact the tenants had been handing over their rents counted for little, and they faced being out on their ears.

In days of old there were people who bought their houses, and those who rented, mostly from the local council.

Liverpool Corporation used to be one of the country’s biggest landlords, responsible for thousands of houses, flats and maisonettes, not just in Liverpool, but in faraway Kirkby, Huyton and Cantril Farm.

Then Margaret Thatcher encouraged the discounted “right-to-buy”, and all those garden and parlour houses for the respectable working classes were a right no more, unless you were eligible for a mortgage.

The last major council-house building was undertaken in the 1980s, when the Militants ruled the city. It was part of their mantra to protect jobs and services and build houses.

Then social landlords arrived, mostly in the form of housing associations. Now few councils own houses, with most handed over to Registered Social Landlords, or RSLs. It gives tenants the security and peace of mind they need.

In recent times, the Labour government has recognised the need for a return to council house building because of the desperate urgency for affordable housing.

Liverpool still tops the list with the highest unemployment rate in the North West, making the need for social housing even more critical.

Which is why the saga of Mere Bank in Sefton Park makes grim reading. Built originally by the city council, it was handed over in the 1980s to HAT, the Liverpool Housing Action Trust, along with every other tower block in the city. Many of the blocks (remember Sheil Road?) were demolished because the cost of renovation was too high.

One of the RSLs, Arena, wanted to transform Mere Bank into social housing scheme, but their hopes were thwarted by the city council. Arena needed council support for a grant bid, but this was turned down by the council as it considered there was already “enough” social rented units around Sefton Park.

It seems the government’s Homes and Communities Agency is most displeased with this situation, with one of its officers apparently describing it as a ‘ridiculous situation’.

Originally , Arena had intended to develop Mere Bank as an affordable housing scheme. But recession and the collapse in house sales led Arena to scrap that idea, and the latest plan was seen as the ideal solution to filling an empty block. The council claim they are now looking at other ways of bringing Mere Bank back into use.

Perhaps the area, with its trees and grand villas is considered too posh for social tenants these days. After all, many , but not all, of the mansions surrounding the two parks have long gone from housing association hands and have been redeveloped into expensive flats for private sale or rent.

But is this right? One of the biggest criticisms of right to buy is that while all the des-res properties were snapped by tenants who could afford them, it left the remaining stock of council housing concentrated in undesirable areas with little employment opportunity, further isolating and stigmatising their occupiers.

Is that right? Have you, or would you pay a hefty premium to live in an upmarket area? Do you feel that social tenants are "ghetto-ised" nowadays? Or what? Vote, vote on the Homepage!

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30 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Nimbier than ThouJanuary 13th 2010.

The problem is the polarisation, much of the city's housing is either very poor or quite posh with not enough in between. We've got the same problem with education.

bubblesJanuary 13th 2010.

Well, before certain people ripped the heart out of ordinary decent communities for financial gain, like, oh, Edge Lane, we had a bit more of an even spread

realistJanuary 13th 2010.

In my day, which wasn't THAT long ago, kids from rich and poor and middle income areas got on buses every morning and went to schools at the other side of the city in different rich and poor and middle income areas. The city had a vibrancy about it. Places like Kensington were not run down. They had terraces of respectable people, council housing in Sheil Road and posh people in the villas down by Newsham Park. It is a nonsense to suggest that an area traditionally known for its multiculturalism, like Sefton Park, has enough social housing already. There are thousands of empty properties in this city and 22,000 families on the housing list. The council once again proves its idiocy.

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2010.

I think it's a bit of a dangerous situation where a council officer is allowed to dictate the social mix of an area.

Nicholas Van HoogstratenJanuary 13th 2010.

The Council is probably trying to keep Mere Bank out of use so it gets more dilapidated and sold off cheaply to the private landlord pals of the Councillors who will then make a killing.

Fortean StoreyJanuary 13th 2010.

Liverpool City Council usually secretly takes the roof off (even listed) buildings it intends to destroy. Does that work with a 1960s reinforced concrete tower block?

SquatterJanuary 13th 2010.

Good timing this article as the Scottish government have today abolished right to buy.

househunterJanuary 13th 2010.

The council had to throw in the towel because it would have cost over £400m to bring council houses up to scratch. The government (Lab or Con) refused to give the money to councils loike Liverpool to renovate, but instead said they would give the cash to housing associations and RSLs. Once we had a city Director of Housing responsible for all council houses. Now we have so-called non-profit making Housing Associations and RSLs each headed by a highly paid chief executive, with each CEO working with a highly-paid executive team. Figures for 2008 show the CEO of Arena earned £130,091, the CEO of Cosmopolitan earned £157,329. One of the op earners was the CEO of Liverpool-based Riverside Group who collected £231,000. Few RSL CEOs earned less than a six-figure annual salary. No wonder they say they are non-profit making.

JoanJanuary 13th 2010.

well, your poll puts the lie to Liverpool being a socialist - or even a caring - city; sickening.People not wanting "social tenants" in their area? Who DO you think you are? These are people not "problems". I live very near Mere Bank and I don't care who lives there as long as someone does and it doesn't go to wrack and ruin like so many streets round there. I rent my flat privately, and although I have a fab landlady, I would give my eye teeth to be a social tenant with all the security that entails. I'm a hard-working, ordinary person as are all the "social tenants" I know and I even find the way Confidential's question is worded extremely offensive. I'm with Realist - bring back diversity across the city; stop ghetto-isation and bring back a spirit of community. Nimbys? Bugger off back to your Sunday supplement dream world and leave the rest of us to live side-by-side in a friendly community.

DaJanuary 13th 2010.

I would be very happy to see these flats turned into family homes. They are a damned sight more fit for purpose than that abortion called One Park West. This situation is being repeated all over the uK and our suburbs would be socially richer for diversification. There, that's me agreeing with the No option on the poll which is a very sensible option and not offensive at all, Joan.

Louie MJanuary 13th 2010.

THOSE FLATS WERE OCCUPIED BY PEOPLE WHO TOOK GREAT PRIDE IN THEM. NEVER NO TROUBLE AND MY UNCLE WAS THERE FOR YEARS AND THE VIEW WAS BRILLIANT. WOT'S WRONG WITH PUTTIN FAMILIES IN THER IS THAT THE KIDS NEED A GARDEN

SiobhanJanuary 13th 2010.

It's terrible to stigmatise social housing by associating it exclusively with undesirable residents. The vast number of people I know who rent such properties do so because they work (normally very long hours) in underpaid industries such as the Arts or Customer Services. How ironic that anyone should the people responsible for our "08 Welcome" should be somehow unworthy to live alongside the private owners, many of whom will have profited from a market-rise caused in part by our Capital of Culture Year.

siobhanJanuary 13th 2010.

My rant didn't make as much sense when I read it back as I thought it would. As hazard inherent in ranting? Insert "consider" between "should" "the people" on the fifth line.

Pop TartJanuary 13th 2010.

I just read Gary Millar's comments in Council seeks cultural people... ...who aren't in the city centre, i think he hits the nail quite nicely on the head! ’It is important we engage with communities so they know what is going on and can provide feedback on our plans for the future. It’s important to have cultural conversations at all levels – and the audience is one of the most crucial. “Culture doesn’t just happen in the city centre – it is thriving across all areas of Liverpool – and we need to do more to promote it.”

DigJanuary 13th 2010.

I went for a drink in Studio 2 @ Parr Street on New Years Eve and Gary Millar was on reception welcoming people in. What a nice chap. Or maybe I just bumped into him on my way in....

Pop TartJanuary 13th 2010.

Dig, Gary is a great guy, he always talks absolutely perfect sense! Parr Street is wonderful and has so far managed to avoid being taken over by the Chavs and Scallies, perfect!

Le CorbusierJanuary 13th 2010.

The internal walls of these flats are concrete so can't be knocked through willy-nilly to suit some trendy media/P.R. slob who wants a “kitchin/doynah”. This probably why the Council wants to knock them down.

DigJanuary 13th 2010.

I've never had the pleasure of talking to Gary at any length. I am told he's a very nice guy. Totally agree with you about Parr Street, best bar/ bars in Town. Staff there are great too. Always have a good natter with Sharon, Cameron and Ste when I see them.

WagJanuary 13th 2010.

Dig, would you mind fcuking off somewhere else to have your homage to Gary Millar and his pub. This is about social housing.

Pop TartJanuary 13th 2010.

Oooooooooh Dig, i appear to escaped the Wrath of Wag, she is all yours! Wag, read the quote by Gary Millar (owner of Parr Street) in the article Council seeks cultural people, Social Hosusing is about an eclectic (objective, selecting ideas, style etc. from various sources, to clarify) group of people...... NOT just Liverpool Wags, you might want to re read!

Mr R. SlickerJanuary 13th 2010.

Pop Start, you are indeed fortunate to escape Wagawrathy since it is your initial mistake that dragged the poor lamb with his corpulent hirsuit posterior into this. Shame on you! I have not had the pleasure of meeting or speaking to Gary Merebank but by the sound of it, I too would wet myself with the sheer delight of being in his presence. Probably best if I keep out of his bar, as I would not wish to dampen what will undoubtedly be the finest floor in publand. I say we demolish Merebank and erect an similarly sized statue of Sir Gary in its place. The homeless could shelter in its shade during the summer and freeze to it by their tongues in the winter. It would be, The Collosus of Liverpool. ( Not to be confused with his party The Calamity Of Liverpool) Let's have a special celebratory Gary Day, every year, when we all come out onto the street and state the bleedin' obvious....but we do it two years after each event. Sorry, am I bordering on sarcasm here, I do apologise. I don't know what came over me - nausea probably.

WagJanuary 13th 2010.

Thank you!

DigJanuary 13th 2010.

Yeah you got away with it. I'm always getting bullied on here. I'm calling the Samaritans.

SamaritansJanuary 13th 2010.

Sorry wrong number. ( has he gone?)

The sound of Beachy HeadJanuary 13th 2010.

Goodbye cruel wooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrlld. Thud.

World-Wide Family FavouritesJanuary 13th 2010.

Wasn't Gary Millar the American who sang "What did Delaware?"

WagJanuary 13th 2010.

No, that was Guy Mitchell who later ran the Queen Vic in EastEnders. Another pub like Councillor Millar's. Now there's a coincidence.

DigJanuary 13th 2010.

Erm, excuse me Wag. May I refer you to your above rant? People in glass social houses and all that.

Stranded StarfishJanuary 13th 2010.

Dear R. Slicker - you do make me chuckle.

Steve ZodiacMarch 25th 2013.

Wasn't Gary Miller the one who sang the end-credits theme song to Fireball XL5?

Remember, it went:
"I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest guy alive,
I'd fly you 'round the universe in Fireball XL5. etc."

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